In respect to the recently passed Halloween, the day Jesus dressed up his Apostles as vampires and said: “This is my blood, drink it…” I wanted to continue talking about the scariest people I know, U.S. customs agents.
(I was joking about Jesus dressing up his Apostles as vampires… hopefully you knew that. Interesting fact, however, many early Romans thought Christians were cannibals because of communion, which is the drinking of wine and eating of bread in remembrance of Jesus. In some denominations, it’s believed that the wine and bread actually become the blood and body of Jesus, which is called Transubstantiation… or gross; I’m going with it being and being called gross, ew.).
I always feel a rush of fear when I approach the border: “To feel a rush, I was going to go skydiving, but I decided to just cross the border because it’s cheaper… and scarier.” If you really want a rush, go to the boarder and tell off the customs agent… that’s living dangerously. Going to the border is like going to see the all powerful Wizard of Oz. Instead of a big show, however, the agents sit in their chair that’s raised up so they can look down on you. Like in battle, they have the advantage of the high ground, and we cower beneath them because they decide whether we enter the country or not: “Please sir, may we come in? I promise to be good.”
I don’t understand the animosity customs agents have shown me at the border. I just want to enter the country for a short time: (agent) “You want to have fun? Let me ruin that for you.” On the plus side, compared to the border people everyone else in the U.S. seems very friendly. In comparison, even the guy who cut me off and gave me the finger was like a candy treat. Maybe, this is the goal. Everyone outside the U.S. thinks Americans are jerks, but if you go there, compared to their agents, Americans are delightful.
One day when I was on my way to school, I was randomly pulled over and had my car searched. After the search, the one officer walked away with my apple in his hand. When I asked him why he took it, he said it didn’t have the sticker on it. Um, it’s an apple. Is my bringing an apple for my lunch going to lead to the next great recession? Were apples used in a recent terrorist attack? Was Johnny Appleseed looking for weapons and gathering his natural sugar army to wreak havoc on those on the no fruit diet? Perhaps the problem is I’m not allowed to bring in an apple because the U.S. has a war on nutrition. Maybe McDonalds is in cahoots with the U.S. border patrol, so they’re not letting anything that has nutritional value into the country for fear of reducing the rampant obesity. The worst part is the apple was originally from the U.S.; did they not want it back? Do they do something to the apples they send to Canada: “Whatever you do, do not let our apples back in the country if they don’t have a sticker; the sticker is all that stops the apple from exploding.” Perhaps they think I’m working for the wicked witch from Snow White, and the sticker is the only proof it hasn’t been poisoned. Or, perhaps I am misjudging their overprotective, irrational control, and making fun of them is my attempt to feel better about myself.
I wonder what kind of person decides to be a U.S. customs agent. In elementary school, I can imagine the teacher asking: “What do you want to do when you’re older?” (child) “I want to help people” (teacher) “I think we have a future doctor on our hands.” (second child) “I want to protect people.” (teacher) “And a future police officer.” (third child) “I want to ruin peoples’ days.” (teacher) “And a future U.S. customs agent; how exciting. If you decide you want to ruin peoples’ lives then you’ll be in government.” Maybe customs agents don’t start mean, but they’re taught to be in training college: “Yesterday you learned how to steal candy from a baby, today you’re going to be stealing lunch money from eight year olds, and tomorrow we have a special class; we’re going to go to the park to kick puppies.” Maybe it’s all an act. Maybe customs agents are actually really friendly outside of work; although, it’s hard to picture them snuggling with their partner and saying something like: “Who’s my lovey dovey? You’re my lovey dovey. Yes you are; yes you are.” Maybe they’re really friendly people, but part of the uniform is for agents to wear wool underwear – itchy – or someone’s hiding in the booth tickling them between cars: (agent) “I hate being tickled!… What do you want?” Perhaps, instead of Cheerios for breakfast, they eat “Bitter-os”, or instead of Shreddies, they have “Grumpies”. Perhaps, instead of Apple Jacks, they have “Apple Tacks”, apple flavored metal shards, or their Lucky Charms is really “Unlucky Charms”, the cereal filled with black cats, spilled salt shakers, and actual broken mirror bits. Perhaps, instead of Froot Loops, they have “Toot Loops”, the smelly cereal, or their Cinnamon Toast Crunch is actually “Cinnamon Toast Punch”, and the toast is burnt. Maybe their Count Chocola is “Count Mock-ula” the cereal that insults you while you eat it, or their Reese Puffs is “Reese Tuffs”, which is tuffs of chest hair. Maybe their Rice Krispies don’t say: “Snap, Crackle, Pop”, but rather “Snap, Crackle, Poop”; that would ruin anyone’s day. To top it all off, maybe their cereal isn’t even name brand, ew. Talk about a double whammy.
The nice thing is customs agents treat everyone with the same disdain; they don’t show favoritism. What I don’t get is you’d think that after you see a thousand people who are average citizens and not criminals, isn’t it normal to think: “Maybe people aren’t so bad? Maybe I can treat them like good citizens wanting to go shopping, and not terrorists trying to blow up a grocery store or abandoned buildings,” (there’s not much else in Buffalo). Criminals are the exception, not the rule. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? Is everyone guilty? I don’t get it because the customs agents are making it hard for families who want to enter the country to buy some clothes and groceries. This is helping their economy. I think the border should be more like the Disney Store (person very cheerful) “Hello, how are you? I’m so glad you’re here. Let me pretend to like you like I pretend to like myself. Come in and spend your money. Buy what you will later regret.”
While writing this it hit me: “What if a customs agent ended up reading my post and was offended? What if they had the power to put me on the terrorist watch, so the next time I tried to cross the border, all of my worst fears came true?” That’d be… unpleasant. No Universal Studios for me, just Universal bruise-ios. The important lesson I need to remember, however, is that everyone is the way they are for a reason. There is a reason why people do what they do like I’m writing this out of fear and frustration. In regards to customs agents, there is a reason for why they are the way they are. They’re either hurt and/or doing what they think they’re supposed to do. Jesus said to love our enemies because he knew there’s always an underlying reason to why we act the way we do. He understood that deep down everyone wants to be loved, but sometimes we go about it in the wrong way like through trying to feel power over someone. Or maybe we’re worried about impressing someone, so we hurt someone else. For instance, the agent who was mean to me could be trying to make his boss happy. Thus, instead of retaliating against someone for the hurt he or she may cause, we need to be trying to understand why this happened. Retaliation will only lead to more hurt feelings. This is especially true with our families and friends, co-workers and bosses. Snapping back may feel good for the moment, but it will hurt us in the long run. We need to be careful not to react to people because the meanest people are likely the most broken and ready to pass their pain onto us, and the more we try to fight back, the harder they’ll attack us. On the other hand, if we learn to love those who are attacking us, our love will eventually soften them (this is only wise in the case of basic meanness and not blatant abuse; love yourself enough to protect yourself from this). Jesus said to love our enemies because eventually we’ll be loving a friend. Love transforms people; love transforms us. Love can transform the angriest of people; it just needs to begin somewhere. Thus, if we want to see this happen, it needs to begin with us.