Topic: World View
Kafka, Canadians and Cricket (and a Sartre bonus)
Eileen Moskowitz has an item about how, in early June, a British reporter was handcuffed, detained, and then deported, drawing criticism from Reporters Without Borders (RWB), an international journalists' watchdog group. Moskowitz represents the PEN USA First Amendment Action Committee.
It seems freelance reporter Elena Lappin failed to produce a press visa upon her arrival here at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) - and this led airport officials to handcuff her and take her to a detention center. She was subsequently deported. Reporters Without Borders contends that a dozen other foreign correspondents, including six French reporters, were treated in a similar fashion at the Los Angeles airport. Lappin told The Los Angeles Times: "I felt subhuman. I was treated like a criminal, handcuffed, fingerprinted and mug shots were taken. I suddenly had no rights. It was very, very humiliating."
Lappin's Los Angeles Times article, reprinted many places since, explains it all. And it has been going around the web. You can find it here - as the New York Times chose July 4th as the appropriate time to print it.
Moskowitz adds that Reporters Without Borders has also criticized the detention and deportation of two international reporters in New York City. They think something is up. A larger crackdown by our guys against the international media in general? Because they make fun of us? And they portray George Bush as in a bit over his head - as an inarticulate bully who seems unable to think things through, unable to say what he means, and who gets angry way too fast?
We'd punish foreign reporters for that, harass them then throw them out on their asses?
Not likely. We're not that good at planning. If we were there'd be power in Baghdad right now and the air-conditioners would actually work, and the locals would be handing us flowers and asking about how to find the sweet love of Jesus.
This was planned? Probably not.
But it seems one Tala Dowlatshahi, the US representative for Reporters Without Borders, claims that the treatment is "a deliberate restriction of press freedom." And he adds that that the reporters' group has "been gravely concerned about new Homeland Security restrictions, not only on journalists but on other individuals and communities that have been targeted in a country that prides itself on democratic freedoms." And too Moskowitz notes the Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders, Robert Menard, personally wrote Tom Ridge about all this.
We'd do something like this? We're claiming it's all about having the right paperwork. No big deal.
Ric Brown, the News Guy in Atlanta says this (and remember, he was one of the guys who started CNN - so this sort of thing bothers him):
I think Rick was upset.
Now, now, Rick.... Those US Customs guards monitoring incoming Canadians are there to protect us. This comes stems from our long national nightmare of William Shatner and Alan Thicke and Alex Trebek - not to mention Alan King and Robert Klein and, dare we say it, Glenn Gould. And there's Loren Green! David Steinberg! Joni Mitchell! Neil Young! Diana Kraal! Oscar Peterson! Gaylord Perry! And those two famous people born in London, Ontario - Guy Lombardo and Jack Warner of Warner Brothers! These Canadians needed to be stopped, and weren't.
And as I mentioned, Aimee Semple McPherson from Salford, Ontario moved out here to California and gave those damned "Foursquare" God houses.
In the early seventies the Canadian nature writer Farley Mowat - "Never Cry Wolf" (which Disney later made into an odd little film) - was barred from entering the US ever again. (My first wife and I named our Dutch-Blue rabbit, Farley, after the guy. Talk about half-assed symbolism!)
So long before swarthy international terrorists bent on killing us all there were... nature writers and environmentalist activists. Mowat's book "A Whale for the Killing" might have been the problem. Those were the days before all the bans and bumper stickers.
You ask - "...isn't this exactly what al Qaeda tries to do, make your country and mine look like a big frigging stupid bully?"
Doing that is easier and easier these days.
[By the way, Gaylord Perry, mentioned above, was a pretty good pitcher for the Chicago Cubs in the late sixties or early seventies. A lot of folks figured he really couldn't be a Canadian as he was conspicuously black and had a good fastball.]
Rick shot back this:
Yeah, I'm sure about Alex.
My favorite Canadian is David James Elliott - he's the guy who plays the heroic all-American navy JAG officer lead part on that long-running television series. He's not an American! He's from Thunderbay, Ontario! He went to Ryerson Polytechnic Institute (a Canadian version of Juilliard, sort of) - and at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario he won the Jean Chalmers Award as Most Promising Actor. He did Canadian television - "Street Legal" from 1985 to 1988.
These Canadians are tricky! They can look just like us - or even more so!
[The other dude from Thunderbay is Paul Williams who leads the band on the David Letterman Show.]
But Ric in Paris (born in Canada) sets Rick in Atlanta straight on the real deal at the US-Canada border - and about Rick being annoyed by it all -
Ah, so one should not worry about Canadians, much.
But should one worry about our borders and how we protect them?
It's not just journalists who might get tossed out.
From Bob Harris over at This Modern World we get this:
Well then, no cricket players. (I know no one who knows that game at all, anyway - except for my friend Brindley out at JPL in Pasadena.)
And no pesky reporters from foreign parts being impertinent.
Ric in Paris says Canadians can be smug. Really? We're better at it. We're number one! We're number one!
Rick in Atlanta says all this kind of thing make your country and mine look like a big frigging stupid bully.
Yeah, but we do it so WELL. We're number one! We're number one!
One might conclude, if one were so minded, that it is time for a change. We could try to be what we claim to be - open and tolerant and all that. We never really were, but we used to at least try to be. The marketplace of ideas and opinions, where eccentricities (like cricket) are allowed to flourish? I think the marketplace is closed today - as it got too scary for all that.
From Jean-Paul Sartre, "Individualism and Conformism in America" (February 1945)
" ... the American, whose reason and freedom are called upon every hour of the day, makes it a point of honor to do as he is asked. It is when he is acting like everyone else that he feels most reasonable and most American; it is in displaying his conformism the he feels the freest."
"The peculiarity of the American... is that he regards his thought as universal."
"It was this complete freedom in conformism that struck me... [and] there is no freer city than New York. You do as you please there. It is public opinion that plays the part of policeman."
"American individualism seemed like a third dimension. It is not incompatible with conformism, but, on the contrary, implies it."
"In the United States individuality is something to be won."
- from notes I made on Thursday, January 24, 1980, so I don't know who provided the translation. Wasn't me. That was many years before finally got to France, and, after more visits, got the hang of the language. In fact, I jotted this down more than twenty-four years ago! Yipes!