By Kelly Jean Cogswell
The Europeans have climbed into the gutter with the Americans, agreeing to give the lowdown on air travelers headed for the U.S.
Forget criminal records or terrorist ties, what Uncle Same wants to know about is race and ethnicity, politics, religion, and union membership, not to mention travel partners, health, and sexual orientation.
That's right, if you're a dyke or fag, you might be a terrorist, and Homeland Security is gonna find out, even if it means asking travel agents to keep track of who has requested a single queen-sized bed instead of two doubles, or who gets listed as next of kin.
Why? It might have prevented the attacks on September 11th. That's what Homeland Security Tzar Michael Chertoff says. Information like this would have, "within a matter of moments, helped to identify many of the nineteen hijackers by linking their methods of payment, phone numbers and seat assignments." Right, Mike.
What repulsive lies. What gall to drape our dead New Yorkers in the Stars and Stripes and use it to justify the new and improved American Stasi.
On Sunday, I watched the Tour de France hurtle to its dope-riddled conclusion along the Champs-Elysée. There were a couple of actual French people there, but most were tourists waving flags and cheering. All I could think of was how I wanted to burn them, the flags, I mean.
Sew a couple of strips of material together you can brighten up a picnic or car lot, spy on neighbors, send kids to die. What do we want nations for, even queer ones? Why do we need flags? I'll bring the gas. You bring the zippo.
Not that getting rid of them will help much. The gaggle of American tourists waiting with me on the pavement didn't have one between them, but they somehow managed to stake their claim. And over four excruciating hours, pressed against a metal barricade and holding in pee to hold my place, I got a crash course on what Americans think of the world, Europe, anyway.
To sum up, in Brussels they make great Belgian waffles. Chinese Italians don't make the best the pizza in Rome, and arranging the finale of a race to make eight loops along the Champs-Elysée is "so gay. Isn't it gay? They're not going anywhere."
That was the P.E. teacher and youth group leader, a muscular twenty-something white man with fair hair, fair skin and a slight twang, my compatriot, brother practically. After weeks of getting himself some culture, seeing the world, the best he could do was, "Isn't it gay?"
His companion, a sweet blonde girl who works in sales at the Body Shop, thought it was nice. "It means everybody gets to take lots of pictures."
I don't hate them. I'm just so depressed that it's clearly these folks that Homeland Security is making the country safe for. Me, I catch a plane, I'd be flagged for a dozen things. I could be hauled off to jail, and would these folks notice? They can barely find their way to the nearest Hard Rock Café.
How could you begin to explain to them that what's happening now makes New Yorkers both victims and perps? Half the 9/11 dead arrived in planes, or their parents did, and they came with big ideas, and their skins were all kinds of colors. And the next time somebody blows up something again, I bet it'll be the New York melting pot again.
I'm ashamed I didn't say anything about that whole "gay" thing. But I couldn't face them knowing what I was -- an American. Here, if you reveal that you share an accent, a language, Americans give you a fat complicit grin of Us against Them and I couldn't stand it.
I shouldn't have worried. When I finally did say something to one of the women after the racers had gone by in their first gay circuit, she said, "I thought you were foreign." "Nope." "So you're American?"
She didn't quite believe me. Maybe she'd never seen a dyke before, just a girl on the "L" Word series. And I hardly look like them with camo pants, tee, and short spiky hair nobody's spent a week on.
But it means something that the word which came to her mind wasn't lesbian or dyke, but foreign, even though she was the one far from home. It brought back images of those days in pre-med biology where foreign matter got lodged in throats, foreign cells tried to invade, and the protecting ones slowly enveloped and killed them.
I think the word foreign suits me, no matter where I am. My customs aren't yours. I burn flags. Or want to. In my mouth, all the words in your tongue mean something new.