United States of Klingons
My personal integrity
would not allow me
to sheepishly submit to the newly installed Big Brother screening
procedure at the American customs depot
June 17, 2004
(June 12) writer and film maker Mahin Bahrami was unable
film festival in San Francisco because of harrassment
by American customs officers at the U.S.-Canadian border. This
is her description of what happened.
in at the airline counter and from there I was directed towards
entry point where a row of bored officers, guarded by their cubicles,
signaled US bound travelers to come forward for inquiry. Pulling
a small luggage with one hand and clutching my passport, ticket
and a copy of the National Geographic with my other
hand, I stepped forward to face the Freedom Fighting Automaton
In general, it
is not recommended to exercise curiosity in the presence of an
FFA, as I learnt soon after answering the questions regarding my
occupation overseas. I was asked what I do in the Middle East to
which I simply replied, "I write." I was then asked about
the subject. I looked at the automaton's face and the first word
that came to my mind was "Paranoia".
Curious to see how his face
would contort after hearing that word I decided to make it my answer.
And well, as expected, the facial contortion turned out to be quite
amusing, however, from that moment on everything started going
downhill. The fact that I had been to the Middle East made me an
instant criminal or at least contaminated by the Middle Eastern
virus and therefore I was directed into the criminals' section
for further interrogation.
I opened the door with the "Customs" sign
on it and was rudely ordered to stay outside until my name was
called. So I did.
Upon entering the interrogation room a second time I saw three
officers behind their respective counters. An obese Black man,
an obese Hispanic woman, and a White man from the Mid-West. I was
pointed towards the Hispanic officer who slipped a form over the
counter and ordered me to fill it out, outside.
Annoyed by the paranoiac border procedure, I looked
at my watch and was relieved to find that I had another two hours
to be "insulted" before
departure time. I then found myself in the challenging position
of proving disassociation with the Axis of Evil. Without choice
I stepped into their dehumanization tunnel and started answering
their intruding questions one by one. I was a trapped traveler
forced to reveal personal information ranging from parental to
educational to physical data, on paper, to be viewed by strangers.
Being a normal human I was naturally upset for the
unexpected intrusion into my private life. My personal integrity
would not allow me
to sheepishly submit to the newly installed Big Brother screening
procedure at the American customs depot. I left parts of the intrusion
form blank and handed it back to the Hispanic woman. She seemed
happy to please Big Brother as she dutifully began feeding its
huge database more freshly caught raw human data.
While Big Brother
was devouring my humanity I began looking about curiously and observed
the interrogation room. I noticed an electronic
finger printing device and a webcam sitting next to each of the
Freedom Fighting Klingons' computer. I took the liberty to ask
if what they were doing was internationally legal.
Lo and behold!
As if I had insulted the Great Master of the Universe, the loyal
guardians of the United States of Klingons stared at me with incredible
awe mixed with anger. Demanding immediate submission and respect
for Big Brother, the Mexican Klingon angrily replied: "The
American Congress does not pass any laws unless it is internationally
Right, she must have just
learnt the word Congress last week in order to pass the American
citizenship test, I thought to myself.
I started looking about the room again and walked
over to a side wall to read a large paranoiac declaration on the
wall. As I was
looking at the picture of the Great Master of Universe, Super Klingon
himself, George W. Bush, and pictures of two other sub-Klingons
on each side, I was ordered to stop exercising my human curiosity
and return to the interrogation counter.
Back in the tunnel, apparently Big Brother was not
happy that I had not completed the intrusion form and demanded
information from my past and present life.
Unable to endure the
sub-human treatment I asked, "Is this how everyone is treated
or is the treatment only reserved for the descendants of the Babylonian
empire?" I don't think my question fit their room-temperature
IQ level and so I dropped down five notches and stated: "It
used to be quite easy to travel into the U.S. as a Canadian. It
sure has changed since the last time I was here."
As the Mexican Klingon continued squeezing more
information out of me I began to feel nauseous. To calm myself
down I took out
my National Geographic magazine, laid it out on the counter
and began reading it. Wondering how long the nonsense would drag
on, I listened as she took it to the next level and began reciting
a statement of oath. She essentially asked me to swear to a supernatural
being that the personal information, unlawfully extracted from
a helpless traveler and conveniently used to feed Big Brother's
insatiable appetite, was pure and authentic.
The next moment I was being lectured by the Klingon
from the Mid-West sitting at the next counter. I was told that
I was being disrespectful
to Big Brother first by entering the room in a nonchalant manner,
then by walking about curiously and not paying attention when the
statement of oath was read and worst of all for not raising my
hand. I explained to them that as a Canadian visitor, who grew
up just 30 kilometers away, I and my family have crossed this border
into the U.S. numerous times in the past and we have never been
interrogated in this manner before.
I said that I am merely observing
and curious to know how things have changed. Finally I have never
had to take an oath so I'm not familiar with the procedure. Then
another Spanish speaking Klingon, who seemed to be the leader of
the pack, appeared and gave me another lecture in support of the
American Congress and their superiority in decision making. A few
more of them entered the room, conversing in Spanish rather freely.
Pretty soon I realized the place was being run by a bunch of Mexican
Things had definitely changed since I had left North
America some five years ago. I could imagine Chinese Americans
as border patrols.
I could see Black Americans as border patrols. But the irony of
Mexicans guarding the borders of the United States of America was
too much to handle. I had flashes of Mexicans running across the
freeway near the Tiajuana border and getting shot by white American
border patrols. Putting myself in their shoes now it must have
felt wonderful to shoot at instead of being shot at, for once.
After another long waiting period I was ordered
to take my luggage over to an inspection point and comply with
the dissection procedure.
As another Mexican inspector rummaged through my belongings and
continued with the interrogation I started to wonder whether the
three-day trip to the U.S. was worth the dehumanization process.
I told the officer that I'm considering canceling my trip to California
to which he replied, "Oh no. Don't do that." Assuming
that he meant the silliness was about to end and that I would be
permitted entry, I complied.
In a few minutes I was told to pack up and go back
to the interrogation room. By then I had missed my flight, however,
I was assured that
I would be able to take the next flight. The Mexican woman continued
interrogating and feeding Big Brother.
After three hours of questioning,
inspection, waiting and complying with their stupidity, in
addition to doing my best to convince them that I was of no threat
American lives nor jobs, they conveniently and audaciously concluded
I was unfit to enter the United States of America because I
may steal their jobs. This is despite knowing that I had already
lived in the U.S. as a Canadian employee in California a few
working for reputable American corporations and that I left
behind a successful American life because I couldn't tolerate their
The purpose of my three-day visit was
visit a friend
in the U.S. and I had only come back to Canada for a family
reunion. I was due to go back to the Middle East within two weeks.
my reasoning and evidence was not satisfactory. Their irrationality
and sub-human treatment of visitors made me decide never
to seek entry to America until a sense of reason and humanity is
back to that country.
For as long as Americans continue
living in a state of paranoia they will only succeed in isolating
the rest of
the world, promoting anti-Americanism and risking collapse from
within. Their paranoiac behavior will only persuade
rational individuals to boycott America in every way possible
and live to tell others about their awful experiences. I am not
when sanity will return to the American psyche but I will not
hold my breath till then.
goodbye to spam!