Maybe I was a little too hasty on the 2012 thing. Back in first grade Mrs. Shaw told us, “one bad one ruins it for everyone.” Nevertheless, I was somewhat content with my educational experience: not too many privileges were revoked over the years. But then things changed. When my wife and I expatriated to Scotland back in ’89, we flew on what had formerly been known as Pan Am flight 103, the route of the airliner that had been blown up over Lockerbie just three months before our international move. Being resident aliens, we had to register with the police in Edinburgh, so at 26 I acquired my first police record. Other than a disputed traffic violation ticket, after returning to the States, I’ve kept a clean record since.
Now I try to volunteer at the local schools. I had been newly elected as PTO president in Wisconsin just before I will dismissed from a position I’d held for some 12 years with nothing but excellent teaching reviews. Paranoia may have begun then. Here in New Jersey, to volunteer to help high school clubs (such as Robotics), you must be fingerprinted. As I made my way to a bio-tech company set up in a back room like a shady fly-by-night business venture, I reflected on how strange this world has become. I was duly fingerprinted and released. Then as I attempted to get back to the highway there was a roadblock with a sign reading “Check Point.” A black-garbed police officer was stopping cars and sending select drivers off to a detention point at the side of the road. I wondered if somehow I’d mistakenly awoken in Kosovo. Was this “the land of the free and the home of the brave”?
Not that I ever felt terribly secure at the best of times, I wonder what has happened to the country I was born in. Freedom now requires groping at airports, random check-points on local roads, and regular “silver alerts” on the highway. It feels like it’s a crime to be born American now. As a kid who was always taught to do what’s right, and who’s tried to live that exacting standard his whole life, the world has come to confound me. Fired for excellent work, fingerprinted for volunteering, felt-up for wanting to fly – the world may well have already ended before 2012 has a chance to get here. Now, what’s that guy doing on the telephone pole outside my window?