I read in the newspaper today that the United States is introducing a brand new design for our passports.
In addition to new security measures, such as an embedded computer chip with biographical information on it, they've tarted them up with various iconic images such as Mt. Rushmore, the flag, an Eagle, parts of the Constitution, Star Spangled Banner, and more.
I have mixed feelings about this. First of all, I kind of liked the plain old bluish colored pages of the old design - they were honest and real, and when you entered a new country and they stamped the passport, you could see it and read it easily. These new pictures may interfere with the stamps and make it hard to read them when you try to look back at the countries you've visited.
But the more important reason I'm wary of this new design is the jingoism that it seems to imply. Other countries, as far as I know, don't have a whole bunch of fancy pictures in their passports. Why do we have so much hubris that we feel a need to have what amount to ads for our country on our passports?
It's as if everywhere we go, we want to proclaim, "I am an American!" as if we are better than everyone else. Maybe if we were truly living up to our American ideals right now I'd feel better about the whole thing. But at the moment, what with the Iraq war, the limiting of freedom at home (suspension of habeas corpus for "enemy combatants," illegal wire tapping, etc.) and everything else that's going on, I'd just as soon keep a low profile. Adding all this illustration to our passports makes it seem as if we are trying to tell everyone how great we are. And sadly, most other countries would not agree with us.