Homeland security is making me feel insecure
I had a dream in which I am accompanying a friend to the security checkpoint of a large urban airport, perhaps in the Washington, DC area. It’s sometime in the not-too-distant future and life in our national security state has become more regimented, Surveillance, interrogation and bureaucracy are the orders of the day.
My friend and I talk animatedly, trying to cover as much ground as possible in our last moments together. We barely acknowledge the minder who is following us. The minder asks to see the large sheaf of documents under my arm ‘— perhaps they are lawsuits against Wal-Mart that I’ve downloaded off the internet and I plan to review for a story I’m writing ‘— but I brush him off because I’m not flying today; there’s no need for him to pry into my business.
As we reach the security checkpoint, my friend drops his bags on the X-ray machine and removes his shoes before saying goodbye. By now there’s a second minder at my side.
‘“Mr. Green,’” he says, ‘“we need to review the documents.’” Again, I politely refuse, telling him they’re not relevant to him. This is apparently the wrong answer because he grows red in the face and is now practically shouting at me: ‘“Give me the documents!’” He clutches my arm with one hand and tries to wrest the papers from my grasp with the other.
Failing that, he jerks me forward with his hand behind my elbow and marches me toward an inconspicuous metal door. We walk down a long corridor, descend some steps, and wind through a warren of hallways deep in the bowels of the airport. Eventually, we emerge in a long room whose outside wall is a giant sheet of thick plate glass that affords a view of the rustic northern Virginia countryside.
There are others in the room, friends of the minder. A couple of them have sketch pads opened and are drawing birds and other natural features of the wilderness outside. There’s also a card table set up, and a refrigerator is stocked with expensive beer. We’re in for a long and perhaps pleasant period of waiting, it appears. My case is outside of his competency, the minder explains, and we’ll have to wait for someone from intelligence services in Langley who has more expertise on my political profile to come over and conduct an interrogation.
The minder opens a beer for me. The group makes for pretty pleasant company, all of them being fairly cultured but unassuming folks in their late twenties. We talk about the sensuous qualities of the photographs of Edward Weston, and about the subtle political critiques buried within the lyrics of Greensboro rock band Tiger Bear Wolf.
After awhile, the minder asks what the documents say, and I admit that I don’t know because I haven’t had a chance to look at them yet. He seems genuinely curious and the bulldog front he put up at the security checkpoint has evaporated, so I hand him one of the documents. He skims it and hands it back to me. Hey, I think, I really don’t care if he knows what I’m reading; I just don’t want the documents to be confiscated because that would set back my work. I suggest that I can hand him one document at a time. He can read the document, hand it back to me and I’ll hand him the next one. He seems happy with this arrangement.
Does this mean I’m off the hook? Maybe. Maybe not. Is this a crisis? Probably not.
It’s just a dream, one that was particularly vivid in the last fleeting moments before I woke up on a recent Saturday morning. I didn’t invent the dream as a literary device to convey a point; it really happened this way in my mind. I’m not going to direct your attention towards particular current events, but they obviously were working on my subconscious. You can probably pinpoint the harbingers for this fascism- lite scenario for yourself if you read the newspaper closely.
If I was to draw any conclusion from the dream, it would probably be that none of us ‘— not me, the minder, nor the hipster hangers-on ‘— are particularly bad or good, just conditioned to behave one way or another and conditioned to accept the intrusion of the security state in our lives as normal. People don’t become evil when state institutions become all-powerful; they become amoral, choosing always the path of least resistance.
Welcome to the machine.
To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at firstname.lastname@example.org