Saturday, May 29, 2010

Are you a terrorist ?

Answering inane questions is an unfortunate fact of life these days. Especially since security has taken centre stage in life, you are constantly asked useless questions at any place which has a security check. I was subject to a special dose of inane questions recently and hence this post.

The occasion was the renewal of my US visa which was expiring. In my line of business, a US visa is one of the necessities of life – like food, water, etc etc. Now the US visa process, for those who only want to visit it,(as opposed to immigrate), is actually a very good process. You apply on line these days, wait for an interview slot, go in person and spend half a day waiting. If you are a regular traveler, you are usually given a long term visa – usually for 10 years. Wasting half a day once in 10 years is perfectly acceptable and nobody should mind.

But in typical American fashion, you are asked some inane security questions in the visa form. Here are some gems.

- Are you coming to the United States to engage in Prostitution ?
- Do you seek to engage in espionage or sabotage ?
- Are you a member or representative of a terrorist organization?
- Have you committed, ordered, incited, assisted,or otherwise participated in extrajudicial killings ?
- Have you ever withheld custody of a U.S. citizen child outside the United States from a person granted legal custody by a U.S. court ?

What do they expect as an answer ? There are probably tens of thousands of applications filed everyday and I would like to know if there was even one answer that said Yes to any of the above ?? The last question is particularly interesting. Does it mean that its OK to withhold custody of a non US citizen child or its OK to withhold custody in the US ??

Why ask such inane questions ? Of course, its only to make prosecution easier if you are caught doing any of the above – you said you would not and you did – capital crime !! In the US its more important not to lie; take the Bill Clinton scandal of a decade ago – His crime was not to have had sex with Monica Lewinski – his crime was to lie about it.

Same is the rigmarole in the airport if you are flying to the US. A bored check in clerk has to ask these questions . Are you carrying a gun ? Are you carrying a bomb? Well not exactly those, but something similarly inane couched in legal gobbledygook. Are you carrying a controlled substance ? What is a controlled substance ?? Drugs is what they mean of course, but there must be some obscure legal reason why it has to be called controlled substance.

Mischievously I have devised a list of questions that visitors to this blog must answer in their own minds

1. Are you wearing a red shirt and green trousers to evidence that you are “uber cool” ?
2. Have you watched the latest Tamil/Hindi/Chinese/whatever movie sitting in the front row of the theatre in the last seven days ?
3. Have you said Down with the Net Nanny at least three times today ?
4. Have you posted the comment "First" on at least five blogs today ?
5. Have you called your spouse "Her Highness", or "Senora" or "The Husband" or "The Fella" or "The Significant Other" today ??

If your answer is No to any of the above , you are denied a visa to enter this blog !!