Forgive me because I just got back from nine days in Europe, watching their newscasts, and so it will take me a few days to come back to our side vs. theirs.
So forgive me in the interim if I wonder out loud why we are insistent to know everything about European passengers flying into America. Everything from their credit card numbers down to what meal choice they made must be supplied within 15 minutes of takeoff. European nations are not asking the same snooping questions of Americans traveling that way.
I can just see some pointed-head bureaucrat in some control room in America, screaming as the data comes in from Delta.
"Oh my God, oh, my God. The guy in 18B ordered chicken. Get the Air Force on the line and let's scramble some jets."
I have said previously I don't mind taking my shoes off if it will prevent another disaster. I don't mind even telling the screeners if I wear boxers or briefs, although I suspect the terrorist czars have already snooped into this issue and put my personal information in some computer in Washington.
The problem with all this is my continuing distrust with bureaucrats who can find a million trees and not one forest. My mind flashes to the scene in "Airplane" in which screeners are pummeling some little old lady while men dressed in Castro uniforms are dragging guns and drugs through the screening area.
It is clear that bureaucrats refusing to talk to each other or heed warnings led to the gap in security on Sept. 11. Now millions of passengers are being inconvenienced each day, people who vote and go to church and serve as presidents of their children's PTA. And after all this extra scrutiny I am not sure we have a system that would prevent another attack.
I am poked and questioned and searched in Brussels on my way back to America after my recent vacation. Why is it that those of us who are innocent are always petrified we have done something wrong?
A man in his mid to late 30s is coming to America from the Czech Republic after having landed a job with an American company. "What paperwork do you have?" the security person asks and continues to demand letterhead proof he is working for the company. He is like a doe in the headlights. He has finally found a good job. He is headed to the promise land. He says he didn't know he would need any but there might be some correspondence on his laptop. He sets it up, sweat beads are forming as he faces the prospect of being turned back even though he has a valid Visa (and believe me those are not easy for Czech citizens to obtain.)
I am tired of this picture of panic and so I wander off to watch more signs of security. I later see the man on the plane with us and so I assume he has somehow convinced the screeners the only thing he plans to attack in America is maybe a pizza or two. Everything from fingerprints to face identification scanners are now being used to try to separate the legit travelers from Europe from the terrorists.
The European Union is balking at all the more stringent inquiries into its citizens, saying that they violate privacy protections.
The problem is that in the last three years the ugly American has stomped his foot around everywhere like one of those bad Japanese movie monsters. We have shown little or no respect to these nations, have invaded and occupied at will. So Europeans can be forgiven for feeling like the unwanted stepchild. These are people of equal standing with every American, who have justifiable national and personal pride.
Because we are so big and because our news is written and broadcast from the view that we are the only nation in the world, we have no idea how disliked we are by the people of the world. Our image abroad is badly in need of some polishing. It may take years to mend. OK, back in the cocoon of America, give me two or three weeks and I like all of us will forget about Europe and their feelings and will be back to normal.
Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.