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Back to the McCarthy era

A commentary in the Independent today:

Tariq Ali: Karl Marx led to my arrest as a terrorist in Germany

What's the world coming to? I first felt the fear and terror in New York just after the impact of Black Tuesday hit home. At the airport, I found myself subconsciously and inadvertently staring at anyone who looked remotely Middle Eastern. Although I sailed through security checks, I was sure that it would have been different had I not looked like a harmless Chinese girl. Indeed, these days, the most comfortable wear for long-haul flights is old baggy clothes - the kind worn by poor doctorate students. And I had plenty of those.

This story of the guy who got detained for carrying a book by Karl Marx on suicide confirmed my misgivings about carrying the sort of insightful articles that would help explain the state of the world today.

I recall going back to Taiwan as a kid every couple of years to visit relatives. In those days, you had to be careful what you brought with you on the plane. Once a customs officer in Taipei airport confiscated brand new songbooks from the passenger before me in the queue. I protested on her behalf. The officer simply replied,"They're in Japanese. How can I tell that they're not Communist propaganda?" I replied that I could read the lyrics and assured him that they were just folk songs. And he was just obeying the rules. All literature not in Chinese or English had to be confiscated.

On the return from Taiwan, we had to be careful what we brought into Okinawa. Forget exotic tropical fruit. How my eyes swelled up seeing my mother handing over her beautiful, hand-picked mangoes, passion fruit, guava, papaya, and lychees. I'm sure the officers brought them home to their families and had a feast. But that was the rule: no fruit.

So now, implicitly the story is telling us that we have to be careful what we read.

3 November 2001 Saturday

Related Links:
Freedom of speech: links to speeches, articles, emails post-Sept 11th
Black Tuesday