For a while now, Border Patrol agents at the Checkpoint on US 35 just north of Laredo have been making it clear that they have read my October, 2005 post, "Criminalizing the Political Lie". Yesterday evening, as I drove through -- presently in a 1988 Chevy Diesel truck that is louder than God and which I am test-driving for a neighbor who has recently rebuilt its engine -- an agent (I usually look at the name badge, but it was late, and I was tired) told me he liked my "blog site," ironically smiling at me as he said, "you're Barber de Chiva," right? I told him it wasn't my blog, but that I was happy he had read my post. A few months ago, a different agent had referenced the same post on Phronesisaical. Pleased that the blog was finding readership outside of the eastern fringes of western Europe, I slept peacefully.
I don't really know how it took them nearly two years to find the post, whose point they seem without exception to have missed (I don't really blame them for this, I guess). Maybe the dogs aren't so good at Google.
But read the comments from last night (by following the links to the original post, above), and you'll get a really solid feel for what passes for any kind of national security discussion down here. Among the training BP Agents receive (and it isn't a light regimen) is, of course, preparation for dealing with folks who don't like to be stopped every night driving home from work to have their various cars -- silver, red, what-have-you -- sniffed by dogs. Raise any questions about it, and you get the standard court-case spiel (once at home, I head straight for the law library in our guest room) and the barely-concealed aggression you see in this guy's comments. The "I-know-what-you-drive-and-where-you-live" stuff is only slightly mitigated, in his comments, by the "you hurt our feelings by calling us stupid" stuff.
Let me make something clear, agents and other readers, I don't have anything against any specific US Border Patrol agents. I have a problem with the fact that raising objections to USBP policy and procedure results in veiled threats and/or punitive searches. I have a problem with the unquestioned assumptions guiding the implementation of checkpoints like these. I want, obviously, to be able to express dissent without fear -- the agent claims familiarity with the constitution, but he seems to be missing key points.
For the record: I am sorry if my comments in 2005 caused hurt feelings. I wasn't really making an overt argument, then, about the Border Patrol, but leaving agents like this one with the impression that I think he's a "knuckle-dragger" obviously doesn't lead to productive dialogue, either; I regret that.