Thursday, January 14, 2010

Welcome Home

Since returning home I’ve been overwhelmed with catching up on family time, getting settled into a new home, figuring out an income source and all that other good life stuff. But I wanted to write up my experience of coming back into the United States through Boston Logan Airport, specifically through customs.

I thought that I might be questioned coming back in to the US. I think living and working in a militarily occupied country has made me feel that my day-to-day actions are inherently illicit.

Anyway, you know how there are two layers of security coming back in to the US? The first is you hand over your passport at Passport Control and they stamp it. Next is customs, which I always thought was to make sure you weren’t bringing stuff (material stuff) into the country that you shouldn’t. I guess I was wrong or at least partially wrong. When I was taken aside by customs they were not at all interested in what I was carrying physically but very interested in where I had been and what I was doing and who I was, what I was carrying in my head ideologically.

I was pulled over immediately. I imagine there must have been a heads up from Passport Control because a customs guy began walking towards me before I got to their station by the door. He brought me and my luggage over to a table and opened everything up. It was very strange, on the one hand he took everything out of my bag but he also didn’t seem that interested in really examining anything. He was the most interested in my notebooks but didn’t really seem to engage with any of the information in them. The only thing that seemed to concern him was one page where I had mentioned a mosque by name. He asked me how many mosques I had visited. Seriously. I had been trying to be very perky and positive, the young traveler coming home from her backpacking. I didn’t want to make my folks wait to long for me. With that question though I couldn’t help it.

How many mosques? I asked. Israeli military personal have taught me that incredulous repetition of questions is an excellent diversion technique.

Um, yeah how many? he repeated.

Well I mean, there are about two on every street…He waited for more of an explanation so I really lost count.

Sometime after the mosque question I was asked if and I’m quoting here. If I had visited any bad places, no joke. One of the first question I had been asked was how I had been treated as an American so I guess this was a continuation of that. But bad places, really? What was next, asking if any one had touched me in my no-no places?

The real aim of the questioning came together for me with one of the last questions.

So are you Muslim? the US customs agent asked me, an American citizen returning home to America. And when I only stared at him mouth open he clarified or Christian?

I mean really could they be any more transparent here. I was clearly being asked, are you with us, or against us? My response neither, my family is Jewish, somehow came out of my mouth even though my brain was screaming WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THIS COUNTRY THAT THIS IS CONSIDERED A CUSTOMS QUESTION? If you go back earlier in my blog you can see that this question is basically exactly like the question I was asked going through Israeli customs. We like to think we’re a bit different here in the old US of A but clearly some, many actually, aspects of imperial control, as currently being expressed through “the war on terror” are universal.

I guess Jewish is close enough to Christian or far enough away from Muslim or he had gotten the info he need. He wished me a happy holiday season and welcomed me home.

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