by Adrian Dorst

 

As stories of injustice go, my tale is a minor one. Nevertheless, what happened to me is, I think, a disturbing reflection of where the government of the United States is today. My story begins innocently enough in January, 2012 with a desire to leave the cool, wet, west coast of Canada for a tropical holiday. As a semi-retired 68 year old man, I had worked hard the previous summer in order to make some extra money for exactly this purpose.

After first considering Australia (too hot), I decided on a trip to the village of Mindo, in Ecuador for two months of hiking and bird-watching in the cloud forest. A friend of mine, who had been there previously, had arranged for me a cabin in an orchid garden. I was stoked with the idea of two months of happy wanderings in the mountains while viewing a cornucopia of brightly-colored tropical birds.

On January 10, after two weeks of preparation and packing, I arrived at the Vancouver International Airport at the ungodly hour of 3:30 am for a 7:am departure on Continental Airlines by way of Houston. That meant going through US customs, which can be a tad bothersome. However, not since the age of 18, when I had tried to cross for a night of under-age drinking, had I been turned back. Indeed, for exactly 5 decades since, I have crossed the US border numerous times and not once been rejected. This time should be no different.

But things don’t always go as planned. The customs officer, after a few innocuous questions, steered me to a door at the back and I found myself in a large office run by the Department of Homeland Security. After surrendering my passport to a female officer, she motioned me to sit in a waiting area.

At the age of 68 I am not entirely na ve. What crime, I wondered, had I committed to warrant this detention? Was it due to my visiting websites unfriendly to the government of the USA? Websites that offer an alternative view to that of the mainstream media and which the government would rather we not see? Websites such as anti-war.com, rense.com, and Veterans Today? Or perhaps it was because I had recently purchased Susan Lindauer’s compelling book, Extreme Prejudice, online. Had it come to this? Are our reading habits monitored?

OK, maybe I was just paranoid. But keep in mind, being detained in the offices of Homeland Security is very intimidating and the spying on ordinary citizens, by all accounts, is very pervasive. If you understand the concept of Full Spectrum Dominance, you will know what I mean.

Eventually I was called up to be interrogated and finger-printed. It turned out that more than 44 years earlier, in 1967, I had been busted on a minor drug charge. Royal Canadian Mounted Police had arrived at the communal apartment I was living in, looking for drugs. Failing to find any, they noticed a decorative pipe hanging on the wall and confiscated it. I had bought the pipe in Europe and it had travelled with me through numerous countries in the Middle-East when I was only 22. I readily confessed it was mine and the Mounties sent it to a lab to be analysed. Scraping the inside of the bowl they had found traces of cannabis resin. The judge berated the police for arresting me but found me guilty of possession and gave me a suspended sentence while making me pay a $250 keep-the-peace bond.

Said the Homeland Security officer, Do you understand that because of your criminal conviction you are inadmissible to the United States? I was tempted to ask how the CIA gets away with bringing in hard drugs by the ton, while I was being barred for traces of a benign one, but I kept my lips sealed. After all, we re not supposed to know about that, are we? Besides I was too scared.

The officer told me I could be arrested and held (in jail) until such time as a hearing was held, which apparently could be days or weeks away, unless I voluntarily signed a document called, Withdrawal of Application for Admission. I signed the damn thing of course. Christ! I was simply trying to have a holiday in a warm country, not in a prison cell. On my 8 hour trip home, by cab, bus and ferry, overwhelming disappointment accompanied me as I mulled over why this had happened. It is difficult, if not impossible, to know the motivation of Homeland Security or its officers. Was this simply the result of an over-zealous officer or was she following policy?

The reaction of friends and acquaintances when they heard my story? Jaw-dropping disbelief. Without exception they were flabbergasted. ( Gobsmacked, if you re British) Two of British Columbia‘s leading newspapers, on hearing of my plight, ran stories, one of them on their front page. Homeland Security, as a result, is the laughing stock of thousands of Canadians. Some have already informed me they intend to henceforth avoid travel to the US. Can you blame them? But admittedly it’s black humor.

A couple of days after returning home, a friend told me about a similar ordeal he had gone through. After being denied admittance, but needing to return to visit an ailing friend, he had jumped through all the hoops in order to comply with US requirements, a process that took 10 months and required payment of a hefty fee. In the end he got a one year permit and would have to go through the same process all over again in order to return. That fee is currently $700.
In my friend’s opinion this is simply a money grab. (Some might call it extortion.) I’m not so sure. I was struck by the utter lack of compassion of the officer as I was expelled (Just following orders). And for what? being a danger to the United States of America? The sole super power of the world? A nation with 3,000 nuclear bombs and more firepower than all other nations combined?

Although this is a small event involving disappointment to a single person, it is a sad reflection of what America has become, and which I find very disturbing. I recall the words of one Albert Einstein.
The only thing more dangerous than ignorance is arrogance.

Come to think of it, I have an idea for a’T-shirt to commemorate the event.

Druggie-Terrorist Senior
Department of Homeland Security