Previously this summer months, I arrived from Mexico to Newark Liberty airport for a brief keep in New York City. It was my to start with check out in yrs and a violation of my self-imposed journey ban to the United States, which despite being the region of my beginning and upbringing I discovered to be a terribly disconcerting position and irreparably alienated from the human affliction.
I experienced left the US in 2003 pursuing my graduation from college in New York, nearly two years soon after the September 11, 2001 assaults experienced occasioned the giddy start of a “war on terror”. In holding with the US predilection for shameless irony, this war had in the long run served to terrorise communities abroad and at residence.
Flying into Newark Liberty – renamed in honour of 9/11 – it was straight away clear that 9/11 was still going sturdy, 20 many years right after the actuality.
My homecoming commenced with an interminable and schizophrenically supervised passport line. Throughout the wait, US citizens and guests could admire signage from the Section of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Security agency, endorsing itself as the very first and very last line of defence protecting The usa and its “way of life”.
But what particularly is the American “way of life” – and just how a great deal “liberty” does it in fact entail?
In her ebook, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, American scholar Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz lists some of the elements defining existence in the homeland, these kinds of as the “endless wars of aggression and occupations” and the “trillions spent on war equipment, navy bases, and personnel instead of social providers and high-quality community education”.
Other highlights include things like the “gross profits of corporations” and the “incarceration of the lousy, especially descendants of enslaved Africans” – not to mention “high costs of suicide, drug abuse, alcoholism, sexual violence versus girls and little ones, homelessness, dropping out of faculty, and gun violence”.
Sounds, very well, significantly less than “liberating”.
Of course, a countrywide narrative in accordance to which “terrorists” and other enemies are often out to get you offers a helpful distraction from the punitive capitalism and institutionalised inequality upon which the country is launched.
As I uncovered out the moment I had cleared Newark passport management and crossed the past line of defence into ostensible flexibility, the dangers barely ended there.
A giant poster on the terminal wall – throughout the bottom of which is specified that “funding for this message” was furnished by Homeland Security Section grants – highlighted a greatly armed police officer alongside a person in a blue button-down shirt and khaki pants, representing the normal US civilian. The accompanying text examine: “Officer Greg Elkin is perfectly equipped to keep our location protected. And so is Jason”.
Lest Jason’s contributions to regional basic safety go undetected, his eyes, ears, and cell telephone are helpfully labelled.
A different line on the advertisement exhorts passersby: “If you see, hear, or detect something suspicious, communicate up” – an approximation of the government’s trademarked “If You See One thing, Say Something®” marketing campaign, which has in the publish-9/11 era propelled plenty of Americans to report their fellow humans for suspicious conduct like appearing to be Arab or Muslim.
Right after extricating myself from Newark Liberty, I built my way to Manhattan and spent the subsequent 7 days reacquainting myself with New York Town and the American plan of sucking the everyday living out of lifestyle by issuing policies for everything less than the sun and forcing people to live in dread of breaking them.
For starters, the thought of public area, integral to any neighborhood that considers by itself cost-free, has proficiently been replaced by overzealously regulated room – to the extent that even the tiniest of New York sidewalk plazas arrives with extensive signs listing all prohibited routines, from exhibiting symptoms – ha! – to feeding birds to lying down.
To be positive, overregulation results in being even extra ludicrous when 9/11 can by some means be tied in – as in the scenario of the New York Metropolis Fireplace Museum in Manhattan’s SoHo district, which I stumbled upon in the course of an innocent quest to discover orange juice that did not price tag the equal of two seafood dinners and beer in Mexico.
At the entrance to the museum, inexplicably, is a 9/11 memorial cow statue – indeed, cow – decorated with American flag styles, depictions of 9/11 firefighters, and, on the still left bovine shoulder, portraits of ex-US president-cum-war on terror king George W Bush and sociopathic ex-New York Metropolis mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Subsequent to the animal, a indication on a pedestal reads: “Please Do NOT let youngsters to sit on the Memorial Cow.”
So significantly for freedom.
Additional downtown at the previous Globe Trade Center web page, in the meantime – which now hosts a Dubai-like skyscraper and other monuments to material excess befitting the American “way of life” – procedures also abound.
Just one indication informs that “prohibited objects consists of [sic], but is not limited to” weapons, resources, paint, glass bottles, open flames, and “powdered and liquid soaps” – no doubt a curious prohibition for the duration of a pandemic.
A different indication lists a variety of forbidden actions, from “causing obstruction, loitering or interfering with risk-free and orderly movement of pedestrians” to “bathing, showering, shaving, laundering, transforming clothing or disrobing”. At the base of the listing is a QR code with a note that “a copy of the complete Environment Trade Heart Principles and Polices are [sic] offered here”.
Then there is the “Oculus” – focal position of the Earth Trade Middle Transportation Hub – a white monstrosity that contains upscale outlets and manufactured with a mere $4bn of public cash. The Oculus escalator comes outfitted with audio procedures stipulating that there is to be only one particular passenger for each action, as effectively as other vital survival strategies.
In truth, it could seem to be foolish to rant about trivial items when so substantially of what constitutes life in The us is no joking subject – such as, you know, the law enforcement propensity for killing unarmed Black individuals.
In the stop, though, hyperregulation in the US is of a piece with the de facto criminalisation of Blackness, Brownness, Muslimness, poverty, psychological disease – and, in quite a few respects, daily life in general.
The conditioned panic of ubiquitous criminality is in switch used to justify a enormous law enforcement and armed service equipment that is by itself often fully commited to lethally breaking the law.
In the course of my spin as a result of the protection-weighty grounds of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum – located across from the Oculus – a map directed me to the “America’s Response Monument” in nearby Liberty Park, where by I 50 percent-envisioned to uncover a rendering of mutilated Afghans or a flattened replica of Baghdad.
In its place, I identified a bronze statue of a US Specific Forces soldier on horseback, subtitled “De Oppresso Liber” – the Exclusive Forces’ motto, translated from the Latin as “To Totally free the Oppressed”. The monument pays tribute to US armed service contributions to, inter alia, “overthrowing the Taliban regime in that most risky of nations around the world, Afghanistan”.
Now, 20 decades just after 9/11, Afghanistan is as unsafe as at any time many thanks in fantastic element to – who else? – the US navy. And as Us citizens proceed to live in debilitating condition-induced worry of these allegedly plotting to subvert our “way of life”, it may possibly just be time to crack free of charge from oppression.
The sights expressed in this posting are the author’s own and do not essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.