Kid just loves him some cows (komos) wrote,
Kid just loves him some cows

Our Free Nation

"He takes my passport, disappears into an office for an uncomfortably long time, comes back and asks if I am willing to pay $1,000 for a $38 visa. Money changes hands and he tells me to come to his office later that afternoon."

This passage is from Naked in Baghdad by NPR correspondent, Anne Garrels. It's emblematic of several annecdotes Garrels shares about the difficulties she had negotiating Iraqi bureaucracy in order to obtain the necessary travel documents. Now read this:

"One result of these new security measures is that the clearance process for visas, which used to take a month or less before these rules were in place, now routinely takes four to six months — unless you pay that $1000 special-processing fee."

Contrary to appearences, this passage has absolutely nothing to do with Anne Garrels, or Iraq, or some other Third World nation with a bureaucracy as corrupt as it is unstable. No, this passage is taken out of a recent article from the Boston Phoenix concerning the new difficulties and restrictions on travel to the United States that foreign-born artists face in our post-Patriot Act world.

That's just the beginning. Our obsession for security is impeding cultural exchange. While this won't seem like a big deal to the part of America who believe that we should retake the Panama Canal or that 'buying American' actually means anything, there's very real danger here. Art facilitates communication, and while it may not bring understanding or peace, it gives a very human face to those who the power-mongers would rather remain faceless.

Have you ever considered why during the Cold War there were so very few photographs in the West of attractive men and women in Russia and Eastern Europe? We become most like that which we fear.

The Boston Phoenix - "Homeland Insecurity"
The Village Voice - "Preventing Performances"

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