There are some folk who don't see the gem inside my rough exterior who might consider me a hot head. To which I say a hearty "bite me". But let this opinion be a caution that within this blog may lurk items of a venting nature or perhaps those which might be considered a rant. So be it. Proceed with caution. You have been warned.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

National Paranoia Gone Wild

As my wife and I are preparing for our annual escape from the eternal battle with the weather in Iowa I've been recalling an incident that occurred on our vacation last year.

Early September in northern North Dakota and we are spending most of our time collapsed in our cabin recovering from Iowa toxicity. Casting about on the map for possible locations of interest I note that we are only 90 minutes from the International Peace Garden. This could be interesting and perhaps present some photo ops. So the next morning we load the two dachshunds and a picnic lunch in the car and head north.

We should have sensed an omen as we headed up US 281 into the hills locally known as the Turtle Mountains and the fog gets thicker and thicker. By the time we reach the entrance to the park it's a real pea souper and the temp is 58-60 degrees. There is the familiar park service brown sign on the side of the road directing us to the park entrance. We pay the $10.00 entry fee and receive a brochure. I proceed to the nearest parking lot and stop to read about the scenic delights awaiting us (that we have no hope of seeing through the fog). A brief glance at the first page and I say to the wife "Oh-oh, it looks like we may actually be in Canada." Having closely followed the panic of isolationism following 9/11 we know that in order to stop the flow of terrorists from Canada to the US (pause for derisive laughter), for the first time in either nation's history, a US passport is now necessary to return from Canada to the US. Canada, still retaining a modicum of common sense, lets Americans drive right in.

So after we huddle shivering in the cold fog over a picnic table eating our lunch and then drive around the park where everything worth looking at is totally obscured by fog we decide to leave. As we leave the entrance of the park I sense the proximity of an odious substance to a fan when I see that in order to proceed south I must pass through a check point. When I pull up to the booth housing the Federal Border Thug (FBT) in my car bearing Iowa plates the FBT asks "You from the states?" followed by "Got any identification?" After both my wife and I offer our Iowa driver's licenses, the FBT says "Got passports?" Of course we don't so we are ordered to pull our car into a building resembling a warehouse, the FBT retaining our IDs.

Second FBT approaches the car:

"Give me your keys, grab your dogs and get out of the car."

We are led into the holding area where another hapless couple is waiting on a bench holding hands and visibly frightened. My wife is ordered to hand over her purse and I am ordered to empty my pockets. All these items vanish behind the counter and then we are questioned.

"Do you have a job?"
"If you work in Iowa what are you doing in Canada?"
Duh! there's an International Peace Garden here. Ever hear of tourism?
"Did you meet anyone in the woods."
Are you kidding me? Yeah this older middle aged couple came to the International Peace Garden with their dachshunds to pick up some grenades and rocket launchers. We couldn't think of a better way to make the exchange than trying to pull this off without passports.

"Sit down."

Which we did. And now I begin to worry. The FBTs have my car keys, all my ID, my credit cards, my money and all my wife's similar objects.

Meanwhile other FBTs are in the warehouse searching our car. I begin to wonder if they are so anxious to stick aging hippies with something that they will plant evidence in my car.

But, thankfully, after 30 minutes of holding our terrified dogs while we sit on a bench, our belongings are returned and we are allowed to proceed on our way. As we are escorted out to our car I mention to the FBT that there is no sign of any kind indicating that entering the International Peace Garden (a name which has now assumed a certain irony) entails leaving the United States, much less that there will be grave consequences should you try to re-enter.

The FBT laconically replies "Yeah, we get a lot of that."

I'm not sure I can comment rationally on this level of stupidity, let alone waste of tax payer money as the facts speak eloquently for themselves. And I have to wonder about the collective IQ of congress (I don't have to wonder about the IQ of George W. Bush the architect of all this paranoia - his level of intelligence or lack of it has always been glaringly evident) who let thousands of undocumented aliens pour across the border with Mexico, but want to harass midwestern tourists trying to visit the International Peace Garden. As John Stossel would say "Give me a break".

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