A U.S. Airport Gives Us a Peek at Tomorrow’s Orwellian America

I’m freshly back from beautiful Antigua Guatemala. My español is much improved, thank you, and I had more than my fill of vibrant forest and colonial ruins.

Understandably, not everyone in Guatemala is a big fan of the U.S., though this American at least felt like the red carpet was rolled out. Guatemala’s big brother to the north has a sorry history of intervening to prevent democracy from interfering with U.S. business interests.

The influence of the United States can still be felt there, not least in the political process. The high courts in Guatemala have recently done an end-run around their constitution and their quasi-democratic institutions to help grease the wheels of the presidential candidate from the party most identified with the military and secret police (which also packed the court with party loyalists). It reminded me of home.

State-sanctioned pro-ruling-party rioters closed the Guatemala City airport once or twice during my visit, but, thankfully, not when I was coming or going. The U.S. Customs Service and La Migra gave me unprecedentedly speedy and courteous service (which, these days, I should probably be ashamed of).

It occurred to me during my travel that if you want to see America’s future, you don’t need to imagine Orwell’s boot-stomping-on-a-human-face metaphor — you just have to visit an airport. The omnipresent surveillance, the variety of pass-cards and restricted areas, the overpriced bad food, the kindergarten safety-scissorsizing of anything that might savagely clip a pilot’s toenails, the constant repetition of recorded voices over loudspeakers, the superstitious courtesy to security guards who can ruin your day on a whim — these are all features that are coming to a shopping mall near you, then to your school or business park, then to your downtown or your gated community.

But anyway, me and my libertarian hysteria are back home and although the rest of looks very busy, I hope to be updating this site more frequently.