These days, as we all know, traveling by air anywhere within U.S. borders demands a civil liberties trampling Hobson’s Choice — the potentially dangerous X-ray backscatter machines where your junk is displayed on camera for unseen TSA goons to review, or “opting out” and having your dignity violated as you’re felt up by some mouth-breathing ignoramus as part of TSA’s idiotic pat down procedure.
The biggest secret though is that TSA doesn’t even protect us from anything. It is little more than security theater — a disruptive and hugely expensive enterprise that provides no tangible benefits and does absolutely nothing to make us safer.
Worse, unlike other benign exercises in security theater – the futile 1950’s duck and cover drills where students hid under their desks to avoid atomic bombs comes to mind – TSA’s consistent dumb-asitude violates our civil liberties in seemingly thousands of asinine, insulting and harassing ways every day.
Remember the TSA agent who demanded that the new mother drink her breast milk to prove it wasn’t contraband? How about the agent who exposed a traveler’s breast while he and other TSA goons laughed about it? Or the agent whose aggressive pat down disconnected a poor traveler’s colostomy bag spilling his urine all over the floor?
Well, it turns out that for international travelers, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is just as bad.
Last Friday as we arrived at Miami International Airport on an international flight, we were herded with all other international arrivals into a single file line past a phalanx of armed and intimidating blue-fatigued customs agents.
One particularly obese customs goon was loudly and rudely barking at passengers to “get up against the wall” as they passed single file by his contraband sniffing German Shepherd.
As we approached, the German Shepherd nipped a little girl in front us who was traveling with her mother. She was crying and obviously terrified, so the ICE agent used the opportunity as a teaching moment… For his dog!
The agent actually dragged the dog right back up to the terrified girl (who was cowering behind her mother’s leg at this point) disciplined the animal, and made the dog sniff the 6 year old for contraband all over again.
A more violent repudiation of common sense is hard to imagine, but unfortunately this seems to be the police state atmosphere that we as citizens increasingly welcome and encourage in order to give us the illusion of safety these days.
As an American who lives abroad and has the misfortune of braving ICE’s harassment on a monthly basis, I can assure you that they are just as bad as their TSA brethren.
Upon entering the U.S., I’m routinely interrogated about where I live, what I do for a living, where I’ve been, where I’m going, and how long I’m staying. I’ve even been accused of being a drug dealer on more than one occasion.
And remember… I’m an American citizen. One can only imagine the harassment doled out to non-U.S. citizens.
By contrast, when I arrive and depart my home in Panama, I am always treated respectfully. I am typically in and out of the security and customs/immigration lines within 5 minutes.
Here, there are no 1984-like telescreens of Big Sis’ leering mug imploring us to “see something, say something” by spying on our neighbors.
Panama has its share of problems for sure, but an overabundance of suffocating rules or a stifling and obnoxious security apparatus that routinely harasses its subjects in the name of keeping us safe are not among them.
Americans are lead to believe that the world outside our borders is a dangerous, forbidding place. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Economic opportunity, self reliance and personal freedom can now be pursued all over the world and modern technology like the Internet makes such opportunities available to almost everyone.
The bottom line: If freedom, self-reliance and resiliency are qualities you and your family value and if pursuit of economic opportunity and personal liberty unshackled from an increasingly Orwellian nanny state are important to you, it’s time to consider internationalizing yourself and your family.
I’m not suggesting quitting your day job and moving abroad or giving up your citizenship. But at least look at the rest of the world with an open mind.
Look for economic opportunities beyond your own borders. Research other countries’ living standards, opportunities for wealth creation, costs of living, and freedom indexes.
At the very least, internationalizing yourself is an important hedge against sovereign risk — putting all of your eggs in one nation’s basket. But more importantly, you may be surprised what you learn.