You are here
Home > Perspective > Papieren Bitte? Just your shoes please

Papieren Bitte? Just your shoes please

mens shoesMost people can easily conjure the cinematic image of Gestapo officers blocking train passengers, demanding “Your papers please.” That such a scene could ever develop in America, haunts citizens opposed to national identity cards or embedded microchips. But with modern surveillance methods as pervasive as cellphones, perhaps today’s state security services have less need to verify who we are. I’ll assert the US Department of Homeland Security is charged more with making Americans feel the heavy boot print of authoritarianism.

I think that in the wake of 9/11, this nation has indeed mobilized a “papers please” law enforcement policy.

The proof is there in black and white in the Patriot Act; you can see it in the Civil Liberties-free zone which immigration officers have been empowered to enforce to 100 miles inland from our borders; and you can see it at our airports. Last night’s 60-Minutes questioned the punitive aspects of the TSA measures to which today’s airline passengers are subjected. Less surprisingly, CBS also suggested their probable ineffectiveness.

Having just paid a holiday visit to DIA, I was inclined to see more. Yes, this is another holiday post.

Credit where credit is due? It’s no coincidence this is about shoes.

Papieren Bitte
First, I’d like to deconstruct the film mythology, which originated in wartime, from Hollywood Home Front propaganda meant to demonize the Hun. Certainly the trench-coated SS officer, or leather-jacketed Gestapo detective, asking for your documents, cut a villainous figure. But they were, in reality, as out of the ordinary as today’s FBI or CIA agents. Have you ever happened upon a one of those?

More often by far, during WWII, the job of asking for a traveler’s “Legitimacion” was assigned to the gendarmes of the occupied countries, or to the collaborators who’d been deputized. These were ordinary constables and men who otherwise were unfit to serve in combat. Old frumps, maligned and bitter. If you can picture the run-of-the-mill TSA troll, you see where I’m going.

Public Transportation
Where travelers a half-century ago were taking trains, today the public city-to-city lattice is airborne. Today we queue for planes, not trains. And instead of producing our “papers” –I should say, IN ADDITION to producing our papers– we are required to remove our shoes, all sorts of articles, submit to searches, and refrain from carrying certain items, in order to thread the needle that allows us access to public travel. I’m not sure if today’s security screening isn’t the equivalent of the depiction of the 40s silver-screen.

Before you argue that I’m being alarmist, please consider that most Germans during the war, indeed the overwhelming majority of citizens of occupied Europe, had little to fear by being asked for their documents. You or I are not insurgents on the lam, nor aspiring bomb-throwers. We do not fear being sent to Guantanamo.

Indeed, you might remember, the movie heroes who sweated the Nazi checkpoints were always resistance fighters, saboteurs, or escaped Allied prisoners. Today, ask yourself how an enemy of the USA would fare trying to use an airport. If you have become aware now that our US Homeland does not show reticence to torture, or disappear, persons of interest, would modern airport security be any less a terrifying prospect for people who may not be in lockstep with the ever rogue-ideology of the current global administrators?

And so, what was the main purpose of policemen monitoring the trains of occupied Europe? To prevent illegal travel, or to deter the thought of sedition? Both. But those were the days of imperfect intelligence.

Today, we know that even the 9/11 hijackers were tracked well in advance of their boarding at Boston Airport. Since then, we know that intelligence agency Fusion Centers also parse the surveillance data of persons of mere tangential interest. We know that the NSA records all phone calls. We know the telecoms are doing something for which they are very insistent about receiving preemptory immunity.

Potential terrorists/hijackers have everybody on their tail.

The TSA fat bastards are for the rest of us.

Airport Fear-mongering
Do you remember the days when you could linger as you dropped off your loved ones at the airport? You could wait with them, or you could meet them as they walked off the plane. Now you are greeted by concrete barriers at the curb, you can’t help anyone with their bags. America’s airports have become high security zones, unwelcoming to all.

Permit me to interject the observation that there has not been a single domestic airport attack to justify the draconian measures which have impacted American tranquility. We abide being yelled at, for absolutely no reason except the scare-phrase “Remember 9/11.” Remember the Maine? Remember Pearl Harbor? Japanese Internment Camps anyone?

If you are the traveler, you have to strip yourself of dignity before a thick-necked tin-pot. Now airports are even replacing the metal detectors with X-ray gateways. You are required to raise your arms for a virtual strip search, where digital images of your nakedness are reviewed by the airport security. Official TSA statements explain that these digital records go no further than their desks.

You can choose to believe that, or believe that all our faces are being blurred, or that our corresponding identities are not matched with the images.

(A digression on the subject of intelligence files:
Meanwhile, consider that the NSA is recording ALL satellite borne phone calls. International and domestic. They get around the “wire-tapping” restrictions by addressing it as “packet collecting.” To their devices, it’s an altogether new technology, thereby unencumbered by civil right legislation protection.

Our imaginations cannot fathom how spooks can listen to all the world’s satellite calls, but their imaginations know that someday the software will be developed to accomplish that task. Won’t they be kicking themselves later if they hadn’t stored as much as they could of our conversations BEFORE anyone suspected all telephones were eavesdropped upon?

-By the way, did you miss the memo that every cellphone is capable of being an eavesdropping device, even when it’s not engaged in a phone call? Would it be beyond the pale to imagine that if a near infinite number of calls are recorded, another near infinite amount of off-line talk is being aggregated in addition? If you can store more on your iPod than you can read in 100 lifetimes, supercomputer storage can probably lap your imagination by 100 to the 100th, I’m just thinking.)

Respect Authority
Well look at me, I’m only underlining where the DHS is happy to have us all place emphasis. FEAR. The security at today’s airports won’t keep box cutters off of airplanes, but it will keep a citizenry from daydreams of dissent.

So much ado,
And not enough DO? You already know what to do. Respect authority? Disrespect false authority! Take a lead from Comrade al-Zairi, you too can make it about the shoes.

We’ve all of us, you know it, mouthed to ourselves the defiant retort, rehearsed for if and when that imaginary Nazi hits us up for our papers: “Papers? I don’t need to show you no stinkin’ papers!”

From LA, I remember a variant which Hispanics directed at La Migra. They wished.

Anyone WITH papers can defy authority with the full confidence that comes from “I am an American” impunity. But can undocumented immigrants say it? Can Middle-Eastern-looking gentlemen say it? Not hardly.

YOU CAN.

My brave little fantasy insurgent, why not offer that rebel yell to the TSA? Tell them you don’t need to remove your stinkin’ shoes! (Double- entendre unintended.) They won’t let you on the plane, but that’s where beloved Capitalism provides your audience.

Put your courage where your mouth is
Let the airlines hear your rebel yell. “We don’t need your stinkin’ airplane!” If they don’t remove the Beirut decor concrete barriers, if they don’t send the TSA mini tyrants packing, if they don’t let you travel with toiletries of your damn choosing, you’re not going to take their stinkin’ flights.

If they’re not going to let you park up close to the terminal, where you used to be able to park but now those spaces are let out to valet parking outfits, you’re not going to visit their airport. Period.

Is there anywhere that you need to go in a hurry, besides out of the country for a long, long spell?

Drive, it’s still free
If you’re going to stick around, boycott the airlines. Use your car.

As has been demonstrated at Arizona checkpoints –as seen on YouTube– a car and a video camera can get you anywhere unmolested. If you are stopped at an DHS “immigration” checkpoint, you hold the upper hand. You can persist in being let to pass without answering a single question. If they detain you, you have a lawsuit. In your car, you can say with impunity still “I don’t need to show you no stinkin’ papers!”

Leave a Reply

Top