Friday, November 02, 2007

A foretaste of hell?

Washington DC- I'm in the Imperial Capital for the People and Planet conference. This necessitated a trip through US Customs and Border Protection before one is admitted to the United States.

It is understandable that the US would institute increased security measures to counter terrorist threats to its people and government. But it has to do this without scaring away visitors who contribute a huge chunk of tourism revenues. There was a time when Japanese and other tourists from "visa waiver countries" (nations who are economically advanced and allied to the USA) are waved through US immigration without much questions. Now each and every visitor is asked questions. This slows down going through immigration and customs.

If the United States were totally freaked out by foreign threats to its security, it could have followed Tokugawa Japan's example and shut off the country from the outside. But that is not possible given the open democratic tradition of the country.

Thus going through US immigration and customs could take up to 2 hours after one has deplaned. This added long hours spent in security checks before one boards a flight is fulfillment of an ancient Turkish saying that "Travel is a foretaste of hell".

It isn't unheard off that even if you have a 2 hour layover to catch a domestic connection, you may miss your flight!

Of course the Turks were not referring to our world but to a their world where one can be waylaid by robbers whilst on the road. But the nomadic Turks had no choice but to travel.

But then again Washington DC's monuments are proof enough that it is worth the effort to get here. Our shared democratic ideals will definitely endure as compared to that of terrorists.

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