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Monday, February 2, 2009

World We Now Live In

Returning to the city is always somewhat of a culture shock after Belize. Not just the density & the urbanity make for a jarring re-entry, going through immigration also contributes.

When I was a child and I would travel inside Europe with my parents, I remember passing borders, stopping the car, showing passports. Or custom and border officials coming onto a train, let's say a train going from France to Germany, to check documents.
And my hometown of Hamburg was only a mere 50km away from the Iron Curtain -- something that I was at the same time used to and blissfully ignorant of its full implication.
But today to travel within Europe more and more people do not take the train anymore (but that is a whole other post) and the days of having to show your passport while traveling inside Europe are long gone. Germany is (re)united and no (physical) wall remains.
Of course when I fly home to Germany from the US I do have to go through customs & immigration upon landing. It is always an amazing experience because while I am in many ways very much an American (while not technically than at least culturally), nothing makes me feel more at home or German than passing through German Immigration. There is no worry and I completely feel at ease and filled with (perhaps naively) trust. Simply because I have that burgundy passport in my hand. Predictably my sister who holds a blue passport finds entering the US more pleasant than entering Europe.
Saturday night I experienced for the first time what so many non-US citizens go through when entering the US: I was finger printed (well, finger scanned) and photographed upon returning to America. Really not that big a deal, especially since the US government has had my fingerprints & picture on file for close to two decades, ever since I became a Permanent Resident.

However it is an utterly unnerving reminder of the times we live in. My husband who was right beside me (who holds both a burgundy and a blue passport) thought so too. And the two blue passport holders behind me mouthed "sorry" as they saw me get processed, which I thought was sweet.

I do completely understand that the new procedure of fingerprinting all foreigners when entering the US is meant to protect the US and everyone (including me!) in it. I live in New York City. I know we (as in New York City) are the number one terrorist target and experts believe that there is a real possibility for something much worse to happen in the near future than 9/11. (And not just America has to worry about this awful scenario).
Thus I appreciate all the measurements taken to protect this amazing city and by extension the country, the globe and even me. Nevertheless I think I will never loose the uneasy feeling about how easily all that data could be misused and more importantly I don't think I will ever get used to this new world we now live in.

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