Sunday, November 4, 2007

White Roses for Uncle Sam
(or, Passing the time at DTW)

I wrote previously about my encounter with the TSA upon leaving Phoenix Sky Harbor.

During my week in Ohio and Michigan, I pondered my experience. Remembering the fear I felt as my backpack went through the x-ray machine 3 times ... remembering the looks of resignation on the faces of my fellow travelers ... I think I felt the seeds of a plan begin to form in my mind.

Before leaving Phoenix, I had printed some interesting articles off the Internets and brought them with me, thinking I might engage my old friend and her fiancé in some political conversation. As it turned out, my girlfriend and I spent most of our time reminiscing, touching on current events only occasionally.

Anyhow, one evening as I was tidying up my guest room at their home, I took out the folder of articles and one of them caught my eye: "The White Rose: A Lesson in Dissent," by Jacob Hornberger. The non-violent resistance mounted by die Weiße Rose against Hitler's regime is one of the most inspiring stories to me. (I can't recommend highly enough the recent film Sophie Scholl: The Final Days — German language with English subtitles — about three students who were arrested, tried and executed for distributing anti-Nazi pamphlets on their Munich university campus.)

After reading Hornberger's piece once again, the seed that was planted at Sky Harbor Airport earlier that week started to germinate.

The articles I'd brought with me from Phoenix included some classics from, some speeches by Rep. Ron Paul, etc. I started looking for shorter pieces that didn't have a whole ton of underlined "hot links" which might prove distracting to readers of the printed articles. I narrowed it down to seven titles:
Hmm. These should offer food for thought to folks with a lot of time on their hands, in a place where they may have just had a less-than-pleasant, up-close and personal brush with the federal government.

I could make copies and distribute them around the Detroit airport!

Yeah, silly, right? People can read this stuff on the Internet if they want to. Well, yes, they can, but while more folks have computers at home than ever before, I'd bet a whole lot of them don't frequent the same websites I do. In fact, I tend to think a lot of people just use the Internet for e-mail, or to shop for some doo-dad or gee-gaw or other, and little else.

Besides, I really wanted to do something for Ron Paul's presidential campaign. I've got a great sign on the back of my mini-van, but I've been itching to do something more. Two of the Ron Paul speeches were short and sweet ... I could hand-write "Ron Paul for President" and "Google Ron Paul" on those ... yeah, that would be great! The next day, I went down to Office Max and made a bunch of copies.

— • —

I had a couple of days before my flight back to Phoenix, giving me some time to consider what I was thinking of doing ... "What would I do if I were questioned?" Gulp!

"Relax," I told myself. "What's the worst that could happen?"

"I'll be forbidden to fly, and I'll have to hitch-hike home instead."

"No, no, that won't happen, just for distributing some political literature ... 1st Amendment, freedom of speech ... surely that still applies, even in the airport."

"Well, I seem to remember you can't say certain words in an airport, like 'bomb,' and some of my articles mention bombs, terrorists, 9/11, things like that."

"Okay, okay. You've got a point. So what? So it might be a bit risky. What's life without a little risk?"

"It's not just the 'authoritahs" I'm worried about. There are those constant P.A. announcements telling passengers to report anyone who looks suspicious to the airport authorities. It's not like I won't be nervous!"

"Look, you have a right to do this, and it's a great idea! If you chicken out now, how the heck do you think you'll hold up if the going ever gets really tough? Just do it. Speak the truth. It's way less dangerous than what Hans and Sophie Scholl did, and it'll honor their memory."

"Alright, I'll do it. If I don't go through with this, then I'm a miserable coward and have no right to consider myself a Gryffindor." (Sorry, it's a Harry Potter thing ...)

— • —

Fast-forward to Friday, 28 September. I woke up at oh-dark-thirty, showered and grabbed some coffee and a bite of toast. Didn't feel much like eating — too excited!

Got dressed for the day. Brought a long black rain coat on the trip with me. (Got to use it, too — rain's always a bonus for us desert rats!) I decided to try for somewhat of a ... dramatic look. Black jeans and chukka boots, dark red blouse, all under the black raincoat. At 5' 11", I'm rather tall, and brunette (Frank says it's more like auburn), and the effect was pleasing. Took a little extra care with the make-up, too — more than I usually would wear for a day of traveling.

Not much to throw in the rent-a-car: a black suitcase to check; and a black-and-red day pack for carry-on, stuffed with the aforementioned articles, some library books and a spiral-bound notebook.

My girlfriend wouldn't be up until well after I left, but I said a quick good-bye and thank-you to her fiancé as he left for work. Then I was off for Detroit Metro Airport (DTW), about 45 minutes away. Listened to the Dixie Chicks' latest CD on the way; thought it would be inspiring to someone who was aimin' to misbehave.

Got to DTW with loads of time to spare. Checked my bag, then headed for the ladies' room. I left a few articles there. Whew! That wasn't so hard! Then I found a coffee shop, ordered a tea and left a couple on the table outside the shop.

DTW's terminal is rather tiny. You can walk around the whole place in a few minutes. I dropped a few more articles here and there, at pay phones, at the little laptop workstations — even at one of the airport shops, on the shelves below the magazines for sale. On one of my go-arounds, I saw two TSA guys at one of the computer workstations, looking at an article I'd placed there earlier.

Unfortunately (for my purposes), the cleaning crew at DTW is very efficient. I saw one janitor pushing his wheeled trash bin along with one hand, and holding one of my articles in the other, reading it as he went. (And he had another one sticking out of his back pocket ... score!)

It then occurred to me that more folks would probably read these if I put them in the gate area, after they'd passed through security. After all, most people go through security, then spend lots of time waiting at the gate for their plane to arrive. A little "subversive" reading material might be welcome.

So I made my way over to "security central." Not busy at all — breezed right through. The gal at the x-ray machine wasn't the least bit interested in my bag.

I made my way to the gate.

The concourse was laid out in a semi-circle, with gates all around. I went up and down the rows and rows of chairs, placing one and two articles at a time. Several passengers saw me, but no one said anything.

Finally, I reached the end of my stack. Done! Now what?

I was sort of hungry. Went back down the long hallway to get a breakfast sandwich and a bottle of juice.

Sated, I headed back toward my gate. Noticed quite a few folks had picked up the articles I'd laid about, and it also appeared that the janitors weren't so prevalent around here. Lots of empty cups and used newspapers laying around, so I figured my articles might linger a little while longer, as well.

Oh. I almost forgot. I wrote across the top of each one: PLEASE READ, COPY AND DISTRIBUTE! I had no idea if anyone would, but just maybe. It might cause a few people to think about the state of our nation, or at least serve as an encouragement to others of like mind.

The flight home was bumpy, but otherwise uneventful. I cat-napped through part of it, since I hadn't slept much the night before.

My sweetie picked me up at Sky Harbor, and on the way home I told him what I'd done. I didn't tell him about my plan beforehand because I wanted him to be able to honestly deny knowing anything about it — just in case things went badly and he found himself being questioned about my activities! (Honestly now, do you think I was being unnecessarily paranoid, or not?)

Anyhow, Frank loved the story! And as we talked, I realized I want to do more of this. I could leave interesting pro-liberty essays, Ron Paul speeches, etc. at coffee shops, doctors' offices, those wire racks dispensing free magazines and classified ads in grocery stores ... I'm sure there are even more good places to do this that I haven't even thought of yet.

And many more Americans need to be awakened from their slumber.