Trumped-up borders came with the territory

BY CARL ROSENSTEIN | Re “Trump double trouble: N.Y.U. roiled by crackdowns” (news article, March 9):

So foreign New York University students are protesting that they were kept in limbo in an air-conditioned room and questioned by authorities at J.F.K. upon re-entering the country. They claim that somehow this is a fascistic act.

Please. Haven’t these privileged N.Y.U. kids something better to do? How about protesting the seven immoral and illegal C.I.A.-instigated wars, (five started by Obama / Clinton) that the U.S. is pursuing simultaneously across the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia? This is what has created such hatred, mass migration and the refugee crisis in the first place.

But speaking for peace takes true moral courage and principled leadership, and there is none of that going around these days. None at the recent Women’s Strike from Linda Sarsour and Co., and especially not from the inane Democrats. There’s just endless whining and hyperventilating, “Trump, Trump,Trump, Pussy, Pussy Pussy, Russia, Russia, Russia.” However, their collective silence about our permanent state of war is deafening. There can be no true social justice until we first stop bombing our way to peace. There is no greater issue.

Having been a free-spirited globetrotter since my late teens, I know something about crossing borders. I learned before I was 20 that when you cross borders anywhere in the world, and particularly upon re-entry into the United States, that you are at the mercy of petty bureaucrats. These folks probably hate their jobs, and for no particular reason — possibly a quota, or just for spite and sadistic pleasure — want to make your life miserable.

When you leave or enter any country, you must check your dignity along with your baggage, especially now. This past December at Newark, I was again pulled aside for special treatment and the Customs officer, examining my Xanax, demanded the source of my anxiety. What unmitigated gall.

Flash back to 1973. I was only 18, returning from Jamaica through J.F.K. This is prior to the emergence of Bob Marley and the ganga culture of Rastafarianism. I was on the trail of Ian Fleming, Dr. No and Ursula Andress. After breezing through Immigration and Customs to meet my mother, who would drive me back to my sheltered “white” life on Long Island, I was surrounded by four very tall men sporting crew cuts, sunglasses and black suits right out of “Reservoir Dogs.” They never identified themselves. They ushered me into an austere 10-x-10 room, harshly lit by overhead fluorescents. It was air-conditioned.

The only piece of furniture in the room was a slab-like stainless-steel table that was undoubtedly used for vivisection. I expected the worst. I was ordered to strip down to my underwear. The gang ransacked my flaming orange backpack with a space cowboy decal on the back flap, and rifled through my clothes. I sat on the cold table wondering if an anal probe was forthcoming. But I was cool, I knew they would never find the one tab of blotter acid buried inside my wallet.

One thorough agent tipped over my sneakers, and for a brief moment a fine substance poured out. But it was just sand from the beach adjacent to the Montego Bay airport. They all gave me very dirty looks and told me to get the “F” out of there. I’ve led a charmed life.

Only a bit later, perhaps in 1974, a college buddy attending SUNY Buffalo and I were returning from a brief day trip into Canada to view the magnificent Niagara Falls. This was at the tail end of the gruesome and immoral Vietnam War.

Walking back across the Peace Bridge into Immigration, we were immediately separated and put into hermetically sealed rooms. I sat there for an hour in Kafkaesque suspension, until an agent finally appeared and told me I was free to re-enter my own country. They had checked to see if we were draft dodgers. Those were the days.

At Heathrow, I was once pulled aside and interrogated about the box of toothpicks I had in my carry-on (true story). At Charles de Gaulle, I was surrounded by heavily militarized police after I pleaded not to X-ray my precious film canisters from my Himalayan trek. They insisted that the film could be packed with C-4.

I have been detained, frisked, humiliated, threatened at gunpoint in Burma, India, Bulgaria, Israel, Yugoslavia, Morocco, Dubai, Brazil and most often in the United States. As long as there are borders, it comes with the territory.

As Dr. Martin Luther King said, in his famed 1967 antiwar speech at Riverside Church: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.”


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