In Amerika, the "K" Stands For Kafka
You may think I'm being overly dramatic or and perhaps paranoid when I say what I'm about to say. Yet let it be known that I have worked for our government on two separate occasions and, being a blogger who's been following the increasingly bizarre activities of the last two administrations from the outside looking in, I don't think what is happening now and may very easily happen in the near future is outside the realm of possibility.
My entire week since the Boston Marathon bombings has been fraught with tension and worry and, save for two exceptions via email, none of you few people who still follow me have heard a peep about what's going on between me and Dubai law enforcement from 8000 miles away.
The day after the Boston Marathon bombing, a friend of mine in Saudi Arabia, a Canadian national who works for a large, well-known corporation, read a post I'd written last week about our dire financial straits and he'd taken it upon himself to help us out by sending us a check. He's done this several times before, usually without my having to ask him. And the check he'd sent off last Tuesday was no exception. As usual, he sent it off through DHL.
Here's the route his parcels typically take: From Saudi Arabia it then sails through Bahrain, then on to the United Arab Emirates, when it then usually clears after four or five hours before making its way to Leipzig, Germany then on to Cincinnati, Ohio where it then clears US Customs, then makes its way to Boston, Massachusetts and then to my front door. On a really good week, my friend in Saudi Arabia can get a parcel to my door a little over 24 hours after he mails it.
But this time, something very strange happened. After arriving in Dubai on the 17th, it then got stuck. By my reckoning, even though they use the Arabic time zone, my parcel's been there for close to three days. Mind you, Dubai usually sends my parcels on their merry way after four or five hours tops. So, armed with the tracking number given to me last Tuesday by my friend, I've been making increasingly frantic status checks and find that it has not budged one inch since arriving in the wee hours of the 17th (or about quarter after 8 in the evening of the 16th, EST).
Worried, I'd emailed DHL and asked for a status check then noted the 800 number provided on their website. I called them right after sending the email and spoke to a Customer Service rep. She gave me the alarming news that my parcel, which contains two, maybe three pieces of paper, had been intercepted by "the local police" and was being x-rayed. When I asked if it was just my parcel that had excited suspicion in particular or the contents of the entire plane, she said she didn't know. Then it had occurred to me in a flash while on the phone: Could this have anything to do with the Boston Marathon bombing? Probably, she said.
Essentially, DHL can track a two ounce package but not the whereabouts of an entire jet owned by them. They cannot or will not tell me if the carrier jet that had come in from Bahrain had been delayed or if it had taken off. Their followup email told me even less than the phone call did and I told them so. So yesterday I called DHL again about 24 hours ago and was told nothing new. Then one of their senior CS reps called me on my cell yesterday afternoon and that's when the hairs on the back of my neck came to attention.
This senior CS rep, who's supposed to call me back any minute, seemed strangely at ease with the unrealistic security cautions taken by the Dubai authorities and at one point got snotty and arch with me, telling me, and this is a ver batim quote, "We all need to be paranoid." It's apparently not bothering her in the least that these idiots in Dubai may be suspecting me in particular of receiving al Qaeda financing, which is ludicrous in the extreme considering the relatively small sum of money involved and that they're making her corporation look bad. She sounded like a typical right winger, the kind who probably cheered on the USA PATRIOT Act 11 years ago on the grounds that it made us safer after 9/11 (it has not, obviously).
Essentially, her attitude was, "Shut up and just deal. This is for our own good." She was actually making excuses for some other government's actions, not even our own, and apparently I'm not supposed to ask what's going on, criticize the process or get alarmed even after being told I'm the subject of a foreign investigation.
I even offered to give my permission by proxy for the Dubai authorities to open the package so they can see there's nothing threatening or incriminating and she then said something that chilled my spine: "They probably have, already." Which has never happened in all the times my Canadian friend has sent us parcels. Every one has arrived with the label in his own handwriting.
After Boston, everything changed. As after 9/11.
My totally non-helpful CS rep at DHL kept telling me, "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear." "Right," I replied, "Tell that to Bradley Manning. Tell that to my friend Susan Lindauer. Tell that to Sibel Edmonds, Bunny Greenhouse and every other person who acted their conscience and did what they thought was right."
And there's the unavoidable fact that, if I have nothing to worry about, then why has my parcel still not moved from Dubai in over three days when it should've been out in three hours? And how could DHL not know whether or not an entire airplane full of packages has been indefinitely intercepted and held in Dubai long past its usual processing time?
So I'm being quietly investigated by Dubai law enforcement who are, of course, stonewalling DHL because of a couple of Chechen assholes with a couple of homemade pressure cooker bombs. It'd be typical of my luck that my parcel was the only one originating in Saudi Arabia that was bound for the same exact city that had just gotten bombed last Monday. That alone could account for my innocuous little parcel being singled out for investigation over national security concerns.
And if they decide, on opening the envelope and finding the small check inside, that it makes me look even more suspicious, it's a given, since they're our allies, they'll notify the American government, who will then turn this over to Homeland Security.
One of the first news items I'd read when I began blogging in January of 2005 was the hair-raising story of a Texas couple whose rich aunt died and had bequeathed them a large sum of money. They did what any typical couple would do in that situation and paid down their bills. Among them was a $5500 credit card debt. Within a week or two of paying the bill, they then got an evergreen-bordered envelope from the Dept. of Homeland Security notifying them they were being investigated for coming into a large sum of money. They actually suspected them of getting money from an al Qaeda financier even though the money never came close to going through anywhere in the Middle East.
We're talking about a much smaller sum of money here but it is coming from Saudi Arabia (albeit from a Canadian national with a Polish name) and was, until three days ago, bound for Boston.
So if I disappear for a while, you'll know why. I have five week's worth of comic strips that I've post-dated to be posted on the next five Sundays but if nothing is posted in between, this is your likeliest explanation.
If it was simply a matter of the check getting held up for reasons other than national security, it would be scary enough because Barb and I cannot possibly make the rent, let alone May's bills without that check in Dubai. But adding to my stress is the fact that it is being held up, obviously over national security concerns and I am obviously the focus of an investigation by Dubai authorities and, very likely, the US government. I'm gathering my loved ones around me and have alerted my two sons and a few friends because I have no idea whether or not I'll ever see or hear of them again. I'm trying to get at least a full month's worth of rent money accumulated so Barb will be cared for for another month in the event I disappear. After that, her fate would be in God's hands.
And we know these kinds of things happen. The USA PATRIOT Act allows the government to come in like Nazi stormtroopers, disappear people in the dead of night and automatically impose gag orders on those subjects as they're held without charge, without trial and without even legal representation. This is not sweaty, bug-eyed, Alex Jones conspiracy theory-mongering. This is a fact. And I'd love nothing more than to find out my parcel has been sent on its merry way to Leipzig and eventually to my house, that this unprecedented delay is a mere mixup, a glitch, and that I stepped on my own dick.
But DHL has confirmed Dubai law enforcement has held up my parcel, have x-rayed it and that they in all likelihood have already opened it without my knowledge or permission and that its carrier is perfectly fine with that.
But I beg to disagree with that DHL CS rep. We do not and should not all have to be paranoid. Paranoia is the residue of terror, which is the real aim of real terrorists. Terror and horror come and go in minutes, hours or days. Paranoia and mutual suspicion is like the lingering illness that remains for decades. If we stop to suspect, scrutinize and be paranoid over every single little thing that passes through our hands, then order breaks down. Nothing gets done. Parcels don't get delivered, checks don't get deposited, bills don't get paid. Everything breaks down. And with the lingering residue of paranoia always in the air, the terrorists not only will have won, they continue winning.