Wednesday, June 27, 2007

When Did We Become the Soviet Union?

When I was a child growing up in the 1960s, our school regularly held “bomb drills” where we would either (1) crawl under our desks or (2) march into the hall and put our heads against our lockers. Yeah, I know, that’s a ridiculous response to the perceived threat of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union, but that was the policy.

Our teachers also taught us about the Soviet Union—mostly that “Russia” was not the proper term, and that living in the Soviet Union was horribly oppressive. People couldn’t live where they wanted to live. People couldn’t leave the country if they chose. The totalitarian government made all the decisions. Evil. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” And the evil was defeated. Or just replaced.

My girlfriend and I waited six months while she got permission to come to the U.S. from Canada. Yes—Canada and the U.S., a border I’ve crossed frequently with no more than a brief conversation with the border guards. She applied for a new passport, even paid for expedited service, but to date has not seen her passport, even though she’s been assured that everything is in order, that it’s just waiting for someone in Ottawa to stamp it. Canada finally issued her a letter indicating her application was in process and allowed her to travel on that.

The U.S. holds an equally bizarre stance. Passport applications are months behind, including those with expedited payments, and all to accomplish WHAT? [My state’s senator, Chuck Schumer, has called for a refund for those folks who didn’t get the expedited service they purchased. Imagine.] Deadlines have been adjusted and readjusted, but if you want to go to Canada, you’ll need a passport to get back. Nothing else will do.


“Homeland Security” has nothing to do with this (unless the government is hopelessly stupid). ANYONE with an iota of common sense, determined to do so, can cross this border. Hell, in many places, a small boat or plane will do the job—in some places you can just walk across. Even if somehow we sealed this line, we have oceans on each side. It’s just not hard.

Then why the increase in “security”? Remember—the 9/11 hijackers were all in the country LEGALLY. If we’re addressing security here, it’s only the illusion of security, the administration once more betting on the foolishness or inattention of the American public. So far a safe bet.

The Bush folks wanted a national ID card, and couldn’t get it. They substituted the passport. They cut taxes and ballooned the national debt. The passport fiasco generates significant extra income. They put in place a policy they couldn’t sustain with infrastructure, and so couldn’t deliver. Anyone see a pattern?

Logic has nothing to do with any of this. While jingoistic ideologues debate toothless immigration policy, reality seems immaterial. My girl, for example, lives with me, has her own income from her share of a business interest in Canada, has her own health insurance from Canada, but the U.S. figures too many Canadians already live in the U.S. Hardly the immigration message you heard on the news.

Look at this another way—suppose she visited (she can visit for three months, then has to go back for 48 hours, then can visit again) and lost her passport (or letter, or imagine they were stolen—a popular target soon, I’ll bet). She’d be unable to reenter Canada. She’d then be an unwitting illegal alien in the U.S. What’s she supposed to do? In the U.S. at least, immigration cases don’t get the protections citizens are afforded—meaning they can hold you indefinitely for no reason. Imagine you go to Canada. Your luggage is stolen, along with your passport. How are you going to get back? The administration’s position is that you can’t return.

So let me see if I’ve got this straight. You can’t leave the country without government approval, through a State department approved passport, which you must purchase but will get whenever, maybe. If you don’t have your papers, you can’t return.

Yeah, hopefully, the Consulate can help you.

But truthfully, and I do NOT say this lightly—

The war on terror? The fight against “those who hate freedom”? Osama bin Laden won it six years ago, and the Bush administration features his top generals.


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