Monday, April 30, 2007

Mixed feelings about the new U.S. Passports

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.

3 comments:

RUTH said...

I was surprised when I phoned our British passport Office to tell thm that Mick had passed away. I thought they would need to know in these days of terrorism and security checks so that a record could be made and no-one else could "steal" his name in order to get a passport. (Over here anyone can get a copy of anyone's birth certificate to prove identity!). They weren't interested at all!

Icarus said...

I know MauiG, I vanished, like I lost my blogger's passport! It couldn't be helped, some terrible things happened to & around me, my health's suffering and I just don't feel like me much these days. So I have to try at least to protect my eyes from screens as much as poss, saving them for the work.
However, you raise such deep, interesting questions here. I'm going to nail my own colours to the mast here & say that not only have I always had a contempt for nationalism & patriotism, particularly when it is manipulated so cheaply, often for cheap reasons. Lately, as time progresses on into the 21st century, I hate it more 6 more, see it as an outdated absurdity,above all in Europe. My sense of national identity & belonging was never very strong, but lately, I'm thinking about that and looking at the mixtures of races, colours, religions, countries of origin around me & seeing that it has just melted away into non-existence for me. Let people have & hold their cultural roots & origins close, but the flags? The symbols? They are just shallow artifices & ripe for abuse. In Europe, I only need my passport for entering & leaving the UK, because it didn't sign the EU agreement by which it is no longer necessary between the other member-states. I go to Spain, France, Belgium from Portugal - no passport needed etc.
The US is different, very large, very far away from everywhere except Canada & Mexico. I also think the US (and Republican admins) does more than most countries to condition the collective conciousness to your symbols, like the flag.
I agree with you, it has to be wrong to implant those symbols into the passport in the 21st century. It doesn't augur well. Who's out of touch?
And thanks so much for coming to see baby Piriquito! Isn't he something? I still have to finish reading your amazing travelogue on Maui. You should do this proessionally!

Mauigirl said...

That is strange, isn't it Ruth, that they weren't interested. The government makes such a big deal out of security and then when it comes down to it they really aren't doing much about it.

Stewart, I'm so sorry you're having so many health issues and I hope your eyes are OK.

You are so right about the manipulation of patriotism for cheap reasons. It's gotten to the point in this country that when I see a "support the troops" sticker or a flag on a car, I immediately think "right wing Republican" and resent them. It's really a shame! (I do like the stickers that say "Support our troops - bring them home!")

I totally agree about the evils of nationalism. I feel overwrought patriotism and organized religion are two major sources of all world conflict. I have no problem with people being proud of their country's principles or having a religious belief of their own. But once people get into groups and start thinking they're better (or more saved) than the other groups, that's when the trouble starts.

Thanks for the compliment on my travel blog. I need to do a new entry but have discovered a lot of the pictures of other places we've been are not digital and have to be scanned in! Horrors. Will need to do that soon!