I think it's time I let you guys know what's going on in my life.
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
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
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."
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.
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
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.