Sunday, April 20, 2008

Horribly Ridiculous

With emphasis on both the words horrible and ridicule. I am a few months behind on this one, but due to my work schedule, I do not get the chance to catch up on my reading as often as I would like.

My attention was drawn to the story through my subscription to Cryptogram, a very good security monthly newsletter from a very insightful, knowledgeable person. Anyhow, this New York Times article details a case study in how entirely ridiculous is the current culture of fear in the U.S.A. A man who has been a naturalized citizen of the United States since infancy had a very cool idea when his mother suggested he do something with his stamp collection. He decided to visit all fifty state capitols, do some research on the state, design a postcard, take photos to make that postcard, and mail it to himself in the next city on his list using the stamps he had collected throughout childhood. That sounds really cool, actually.

However, some woman who has bought into the message that we must always be fearful was sitting next to him on a flight to Hawaii. He told her of his plan, and she became so dismayed she took his photo while he slept and reported him to authorities as suspicious. This was half-way through his trip to the fifty capitols, and at every successive capitol he was at the very least harassed by authorities or barred from entering the capitol buildings.

He persevered, making it to 49 capitols (running out of money before he could get to Alaska), and his work was displayed, but it is a horrible example of the state of our national consciousness that something so celebratory of America draws such suspicion and poor behaivour. Perhaps it would have been a good idea to take into account the inspiration for his actions rather than thinking, "This guy's parents were Iranian, and he lives in Italy working as a freelance photographer. He must be a terrorist!"

Living in fear is bad for your health and really cool art projects.