Friday, March 19, 2010

Do You Feel Safer Now?

I've felt much safer since my girlfriend Sherry's 18-year old nephew Ben was detained in Detroit on his way from England to Little Rock, bearing a nefarious contract, and was not allowed to enter the these United States. The contract stated, among other things, that while the lad was visiting his family in Little Rock, he was to practice good manners, shadow his uncle on the job, learn QuickBooks, read, help around the house, write in a journal one day a week and volunteer for Habitat for Humanity (which had already been arranged). In return, he was entitled to the privileges that go with being a beloved part of a family, including the privilege "to learn…..Values are the desirable principles in someone’s character that society considers worthwhile." Like the other kids in the family, he was to receive all manner of goodies (a gym membership, music lessons, the occasional outing for bowling or horseback riding, use of the computer and a cell phone with limited range), providing he kept up his part of the bargain.

This document in his possession, written by Sherry, was one of four things that aroused suspicion. Because he had spent the last $25 of his debit card on a pair of jeans, he was deemed a credit risk. His mother, sister and grandparents live in England; however, since he is currently unemployed and does not own a house, he was declared a person with no ties to said country - and thus a risk to U.S. Security. Because he said he had no other relatives in the US, he was pronounced a risk for living in the U.S. illegally.

When Ben last visited his family here as a 14-year old, his main crime had been an aversion to showering - "Showers? I've had ever so many!"

As the contract Ben was carrying indicates, he was not flying across the Big Pond for an ordinary visit. He's floundering a bit and not getting along with his mum. The night before he was to arrive, Sherry told me that she was very excited that she would be able to teach him some life skills. I told her that only she would be excited about teaching a teenager some life skills.

On the plane Ben filled out a form that asked, among other things:
Have you ever been arrested or convicted for an offense or crime involving moral turpitude? (I'm betting that the average 18-year old boy doesn't know whether he's committing moral turpitude, but will generally answer "no" to this question.)

Have you ever or are you now involved in espionage or sabotage or in terrorist activities, or in genocide? Were you involved in persecutions associated with Nazi Germany or its allies?

Do you masturbate?

Okay, I made that last one up. Questions like that always puzzle me; however -- secret agents, perverts, pedophiles, terrorists and their ilk are probably not going to board a plane to gain entrance to a country and then admit why they might be going there. "The thing is, I heard there are a lot of children for sale in Thailand." And I am aware that people who mean us harm often come in nice packages and that security officers must be vigilant. However, in this case Point A: Ben's mother, who was having the kind of problems with her eldest that parents everywhere can identify with, leads so clearly to Point B: the Sister/Aunt who stepped in as they always have and always will to bridge the chasm.

No ambiguity or smoking gun here -- not even a wisp to explain why he was pulled off the plane in the first place. This could have been the summer of an epiphany for him; instead, the humiliation of being escorted back to the plane in handcuffs will be seared in his memory.

My husband, who understands data of such sorts, believes that Ben was on a no-fly list (along with the late Senator Edward Kennedy). But I can't help but wonder if it was a random act of "because I can." You know the type: some go home and kick their dogs after a bad day at work, some are rude to waiters and sales people, others take it out on their spouses and children. Many of us have been the type, to our great shame, at some point in our lives.

Both Sherry and her husband Dallas (who, ironically, served his country in the national guard for more than 20 years) tried to make inquiries about how and why such a kid would be refused entry. Not only were they rebuffed, but in such a way as to make clear that they had no right even asking why their nephew not only lost his plane fare and his chance at at remarkable summer, but also a good deal of faith.

No comments:

Post a Comment