The pioneers of a warless world are the young men and women who refuse military service. - Albert Einstein
I was in Buffalo, New York, last night for a screening of "War Resisters Speak Out" and a discussion about Iraq War resisters in Canada, and why we work to win them sanctuary.
It was a great event. I think people learned a lot and were moved by the resisters' stories, told on film in their own words. We strengthened connections with the peace movement across these artificial national borders, and people gave generously to the war resister legal defense fund. The organizers are building support for a larger event on the Canadian side which will bring together peace activists and war resisters, and continue this important work.
For me personally, it was also wonderful to see my friends who I've met through this blog and through peace activism, Russell Brown, who writes the excellent blog Adopt Resistance, and Bruce and Mary Beyer, legendary veteran peace activists. And it was terrific to meet a few more friends in person, like Jim Hart, father of war resister Patrick Hart, and New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) Western Region Director John Curr. With Western New York State being an important border crossing, you can imagine that the defenders of our rights and civil liberties are pretty busy.
Speaking of which, the answer is yes, I was detained. Same drill as last time, but they held me twice as long. The border guard in the booth asks the usual questions, then swipes my passport. As soon as he does that, I am asked to surrender my car keys, four armed guards descend on the car and escort me inside. This time the inside guard also asked a series of ridiculous and meaningless questions, seemingly trying to trip me up or catch me in a lie. They held me for an hour, then returned me to the car, which had been searched.
A campaign friend urged me not to minimize this harassment, which is obviously based solely on my political opinions and legal political activism. I understand his anger, and I would share it about anyone else's border troubles. But for myself, I need to minimize the implications for my own peace of mind. Call it a coping mechanism. I don't want to have extreme anxiety and trauma flashbacks every time I fly out of Buffalo or drive down to see my mom. I have to approach it lightly and irreverently. Okay, this is the dance we do here at the border crossing. They will do their thing, I will not be hurt, and I will go on my way. The experience will last however long it's going to last, whether I'm wound up and anxious or daydreaming and deep-breathing to relax. I'm good at protecting myself that way.
But it's wrong, and it sucks.