On this 151st Canada Day I have just arrived back to Saskatoon from a week in Puerto Rico with my NAMF colleagues. The Puerto Rican hospitality and food was outstanding and we had a fabulous conference. You are a remarkable people. On the way there and back I had to deal with US security, which (thanks to a breast prosthesis) now means that I get groped and harassed for something that might more reasonably be treated with some degree of discretion and respect. I look on with envy at those (fortunate?) folks with a knee replacement who have a simple protocol to follow…
It is quite a remarkable feeling to stand barefoot and lopsided watching the security guard aggressively squeezing what you are repeatedly and calmly explaining is a breast prosthesis that you would please like to put back in place when he is done.
Of course, this takes place at the same time as everyone is undressing and emptying our bags for the questionable offenses of wearing a belt and shoes and carrying a computer, a water bottle, and some toiletries and sunscreen. My daughter Jessica – at the age of 13 – had a tube of peppermint toothpaste confiscated – half full – because the capacity of the tube was 120 ml. We were going to visit her grandparents for the weekend. The experience was memorable in all of the worst ways. The whole thing is bizarre if you pause for a moment and think of the cost in time, personal dignity, and money vs. the impact on actual risk.
We may all complain about the ponderousness of policy making and changing, but US driven airport security measures are a great example of a decision that was made in haste with little or no balance of consequences – of technical advice clearly taken far out of context, or ignored – and of the whole world being complicit under pressure to a single insistent voice. How many millions of moments of personal suffering – great and small – have come out of a single week of decisions made in haste and under pressure…and how many countless millions of dollars have been invested in technology to support those poor decisions and try to mitigate and depersonalize their fundamental principles which violate personal privacy and dignity?
To my American friends – I am sad for your country and for you. Your ways were never kind and gentle, but I remember a time when civil rights mattered and defending those rights, thinking independently, and respecting others were sources of pride within your borders. Greatness grows out of acts of courage and kindness – not out of fear – and George Bush’s post 9-11 decisions left a legacy of fear rather than greatness. Every step through US airspace – whether for work or vacation – now reinforces this fear-based-behavior in a process that is far less respectful and dignified than my experience of passing through the iron curtain in 1986.
To our Puerto Rican hosts – my great admiration for your kindness and courtesy – I am holding your island high in my thoughts, knowing that you will persevere in the face of many challenges and that your big hearts will win out. I am proud of NAMF for persisting and coming to visit your island in spite of our collective nervousness. Thank you for graciously rewarding our small act of courage with your generous hospitality.
On this Canada Day, may all of our governments and leaders find dignity, grace, wisdom, insight, discipline, courage, and great strength – and may we continue to hold each other to these high standards. Decisions and policies that are well considered, fact based, balanced, respectful – and respected once they are made – are the foundation for a strong country. Open dialogue that leads to solutions rather than accusations may not always provide high drama – but it does provide peace and prosperity.
To my country built on “Peace, Order and Good Government” – may we ALL find ways to keep those foundations strong.