As I write, the date is 9/11. Nine years after the fact. Seems trite to say the world isn't spinning as it did before that. None of us are.
Other Half has experienced the residual effect of that terrible day in 2001 firsthand. She can’t fly to the United States without being accosted and delayed. No way, you say? That’s what she would have said, too.
Imagine her surprise when she was buttonholed at the airport one day while trying to board a flight into the United States to visit Daughter Number Three in New York. After waiting for some time, she asked what the problem could be, and was told that because of her name she had to be checked out before being allowed into the U.S.
Marion Elizabeth Smith. There’s a name to strike terror into the heart of the most powerful nation on the face of the Earth. Her parents had no idea what they were doing to her when they gave her those names. Marion Elizabeth French was innocuous enough. No problem there. At one time, a lovely Newfoundland schooner named the Marion Elizabeth used to sail these waters, but that was about it. You could hardly call her a gunboat.
But then Marion Elizabeth had the good sense to marry me, not realizing that combining Marion Elizabeth with Smith would one day cause security people in the United States of America to fall off the deep end. Immediately, they would haul her out of an airport lineup and question her closely as to what she did in Canada and what her interest was in the great United States.
Those of you who have met OH know that she closely resembles a terrorist. Those same dark eyes that so bedeviled me 47 years ago are now a dead giveaway to Middle Eastern, Arab and Muslim ancestry. And, of course, we all know that either one of those labels is enough to brand you a terrorist forever and a day.
To make matters worse, she stated her home to be Springdale in Newfoundland and Labrador. Everyone is aware of the terrorist training camps currently operating in this province, most of them in Labrador West and cleverly disguised as iron mines and construction sites for a hospital and college. Sixty new homes are being prepared for terrorist trainees.
Combine all this with that highly suspicious Marion Elizabeth Smith and it’s a wonder she didn’t wind up in a prison camp in Cuba.
OH and Daughter Number Three, a few years ago, stood up to some Russian guards in Moscow. When one dared to put his hand on OH’s arm, Daughter confronted him physically and told him quite forcefully to “Take your hands off my mother!” Incredibly, he did. I shiver to think of what might have happened had he refused. An international incident would have been the least of it.
I mention this to show that OH wasn’t exactly intimidated by some minor official in a U.S. airline. She demanded to know what the problem was with her hitherto innocent little name. You may not believe this, but I’ll tell you anyway.
Seems there’s this other person with a background almost as suspicious sounding as Springdale who has a name similar to hers. The name? Amar Mohammed Smith. Amar Mohammed Smith!
Don’t ask me how he got that particular combination of names. I know there are Smiths in practically every nook and cranny in the Western world. There are Smiths in St. Anthony, my hometown, one of whom could be mistaken for a deadly terrorist, but in reality he’s a a pussycat. He wasn’t always a pussycat, mind you, but in later years he’s mellowed somewhat.
The other used-to-be Smith in St. Anthony is blond and blue-eyed. And no, I did not have a love child in Baghdad while teaching high school democracy there in the ’80s. Apart from all that, the amazing similarity between Marion Elizabeth Smith and Amar Mohammed Smith is obvious to alert airport security people.
She’s been stopped twice from entering the U.S., but eventually they do take her in. Now she wonders what would happen if there were a terrorist incident in the U.S. while she was there. Would they detain her indefinitely?
A few years before 9/11, Daughter Number Three herself was detained for the better part of one day at Logan Airport in Boston because she could not prove to immigration officials she was a student at Harvard University. They kept her incommunicado in a room by herself for eight hours. She finally got hold of a university official who managed to get her out of there. No one can blame the Americans for being somewhat paranoid. There are whole nations of people who, when they look at a map of the United States, don’t see 50 states. All they see is a target with a gigantic bull’s-eye. That’s reality.
After the first 9/11. I wrote a column entitled “The Ugly American is dead.” I was trying to point out that the stereotype of arrogant Americans in the book “The Ugly American,” which had come out many years before, was now totally negated. Americans, like most of the rest of the world, were now obviously vulnerable to homeland attacks by its enemies, and that put them on a level with everyone else.
There were nasty letters to editors and to me personally, totally misreading the column and accusing me of taking great “glee” in the fact that many Americans had died that day.
I continue to be amazed that no significant terrorist attack has been made on the U.S. since 9/11. And while we can wax humorous and even sarcastic about American attempts to keep their homeland safe, who can blame them for being somewhat extreme? I really appreciate their anal approach to airline security — on these occasions especially: whenever OH or someone else close to me is in the air.
Ed Smith is an author who lives in
Springdale. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.