Saturday, November 27, 2004

Surgeon General's Warning

This letter to the Editor of The Stabroek News in Georgetown, Guyana was entitled: Travel to US should come with health warning. Indeed.
Saturday, November 27th 2004
Dear Editor,

I think travel to the USA should now, like a packet of cigarettes, come with a health warning. The security measures recently introduced regarding travel to, and within, the USA are so stressful that it is hard to see a mad rush for holidays in America. I recently returned from a short vacation and am still recovering from the stress and anxiety involved.

First of all, the travel agents' briefing about 'homeland security' came as a surprise. These included leaving one's suitcases unlocked, not having beverages in suitcases, keeping film in hand luggage, etc. Airline security people are empowered to break suitcase locks, inspect and dispose of goods they consider 'suspicious', and there would be no compensation for loss or damage. Airlines now accept no responsibility for such actions. This is all part of 'homeland security'. I wonder how travellers' insurance companies feel about that. I felt uneasy about leaving my suitcase unlocked - anyone could put anything inside an unlocked case. How would the owner be able to prove that he/she had nothing to do with it?

On our plane (American-based airline), at the end of the captain's 'welcome aboard' speech, we were requested to report any 'suspicious behaviour'. On arrival at the US airport, we were fingerprinted (both index fingers), then photographed full-face. Our vacation involved changing planes at four airports - San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Hawaii. At each one of them we were required to divest ourselves of jackets, trinkets, wristwatches, shoes, and these, together with carry-on luggage, were placed in trays for conveyor belt electronic scrutiny. We had to have a photo ID (normally our passport) at the ready. Very boring and exhausting. I suppose we were lucky not to have our back and front 'curvy bits' cupped and squeezed, to ensure we were not hiding non-metallic explosives, as some American passengers recently experienced and complained about.

{remainder of letter snipped}
Update: The letter writer is obviously naive about the dangers in foreign countries, possibly believing that the indigenous peoples are harmless and picturesque. Shortly after posting the above letter, I ran across this irrefutable evidence that the public health measures indicated are necessary. Representative John Hostettler (Republican, Indiana 8th District), with a prior conviction as a recipient of the Christian of the Year Award, was detained again when he tried to bring a loaded 9 mm Glock aboard a plane in Louisville, KY. (Via up2date on dKos).