Peter Watts: Free?

Well, Peter Watts didn't go to jail. (For those not following this, you can do a web search and find the full story. I don't have the heart to look again at those articles.) This is a victory according to some, and I am happy that he can spend Canada Day home this year. Still, besides having to pay a fine and his lawyer, he's now a convicted felon and may never be able to enter the United States again, which is not an insignificant thing for a science fiction author where conventions are an important part of one's career. He certainly didn't get off scott-free.

But a particular line from Madeline Ashby's post on the sentencing rather summed up my view of the whole thing:
What happened to Peter Watts could happen to any of us.
Now I'm a Liberal, which, when I get into conversations with Americans in bars, appears to mean that I agree with right-wingers almost as much as left-wingers and have only a few of my views in common with libertarians. I certainly respect the risks that many law enforcement officers take every day, even those who are border guards on the Canadian border. (I must admit I do not know how dangerous that job is.)

But there's a difference here: LEOs chose that life, and, if the American ideal is to be believed, they did it to protect the rest of us. So why do I feel nervous crossing the U.S. border these days?

Beyond the day-to-day problems of the U.S., the 9/11 moral panic, NSA wiretapping, Bush rather extending (to use a polite term) executive power, Obama continuing that; all of these scare me. When I go there, it can happen to me, or anybody else, from illegal immigrant to full-fledged citizen. (For some it even happens if you don't go near America; just ask all those who've had a free flight to Gitmo.)

This is why, though I've always appreciated intellectually the ideas espoused by people like Scott Greenfield in his blog Simple Justice, I now feel a lot more viscerally what he's talking about.

It's terrible feeling at first, when you live amongst the free, to think, "I could be next." Perhaps you get used to it.

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