Friday, December 14, 2007

Travel Time

New Airport Security "Put the fun back in flying" posted on

After a long difficult, stressful, overworked fall-- I am finally beginning my Christmas travels.

As an American living overseas I travel often to many countries around the world and visit back in the good ole USA as well. It is a good exercise in contrasts, comparisons and seeing how things change and how George Bush effects the world in a negative way that reaches everywhere.

I am leaving this morning from Japan and headed for Germany, traveling with friends, to see family and enjoy traditional Christmas fun. So what have I noticed so far?

When I go from my home in Japan to my birthplace in the USA I always buy extra traveller’s health insurance since I am at risk for bankruptcy-inducing medical bills for any, even minor, incident that may occur while in the USA. Today I feel safe with my normal health care headed to another sane country that also takes care of sick people without charging them tens of thousands of dollars.

Japan is a strict country with loads of bureaucracy, But even here- where following the rules for the common good is strongly re-enforced every day, I was able to negotiate through customs, immigration, and security with out feeling threatened, yelled at, intimidated and without feeling the eye of big brother intruding on my every move. Of course we still get screened, and go through the normal stuff—but the approach is friendly, professional, and quick. They do what they need to do and try to impact our travel time as little as possible.

The downside of the USA influence becomes apparent though as All USA based carriers are still crazily strict about gels, liquids etc. WHAT A JOKE,

The idea that these people could sit in the plane toilet and simply mix together these normal household fluids to create a high explosive capable
of blowing up the entire aircraft is untenable, said Lt. Col. Wylde, who
was trained as an ammunition technical officer responsible for terrorist
bomb disposal at the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in Sandhurst.

Like my tube of toothpaste is really the threat they should worry about! Many foreign based carriers have eased the liquids restriction… but most have not, as they are following the lead of the Red White and Blue.

Another negative trend inspired by BUSH and co. is that starting last month, Japan has added fingerprinting and retinal scans are now required for all foreigners entering the country. This is creating a lot of controversy. (Check out the story over on Global Voices )But even in this area, the Japanese are seemingly embarrassed to ask us to do it. And I think they would rather forget the whole thing. -- I went through it the first time just after traveling at Thanksgiving. My Japanese friends traveling to the USA have told me horror stories about how people are treated by the eye scanning Gestapo when they go to the USA. So I guess it is sad that Japan is following in the fingerprint biometric trend… but at least they seem to know it is not a great thing.

I am left feeling sad that there is a part of me that is relieved that I am headed to Europe and not America. Comforted by the fact that I don't have to be too worried about what would happen if I got sick during this trip. Sad that each time I go home I feel that the entrance to our formerly welcoming nation has become increasingly intimidating, and unwelcoming. Sad that so many changes are being motivated by fear, racism and plain political grand-standing.

When my family immigrated to America (one side from Wales and the other from Germany) they had their trials and tribulations for sure. But my ancestors told stories of the great kindness and opportunity they felt, crossing over and entering America. They felt welcomed, they had to work hard, and things were not always fair. But they felt welcomed. And the kindness shown them from their new American friends and neighbors was recorded in our family history.

What kinds of stories will people tell about us in the future—after the way we treat the world now?