Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Three Star Citizen

The photo above of the partial photo (sorry about the quality) is from my current passport. As you can see if you look closely, there are three stars at the left of the photo. The bottom star (they’re all red) is partially obscured by my jacket.

Before starting this blog, I was telling a co-worker about Eddie Hatcher, the man at the center of
the four-part series that I began this blog with, along with Jesse Helms and Dick Cheney. My co-worker asked me if there were any stars on my passport. I told him I didn’t know and asked why. He said he’d had lunch with a French woman that he met and she said that if someone is a “person of interest” for the U.S. government there are three stars on their passport.

I came home after work and looked at my passport and was surprised to see the three stars. I got this passport in 2004 to go to Paris to visit a friend, perhaps somewhere near the height of the Bush Administration’s illegal activities (like SPYING!!!) against Americans.

I believe I was victimized by the Patriot Act in 2003 and again in 2004.

In October 2002, a Kurdish friend (the brother of my friend in Paris) and I decided in advance of the Iraq war to promote nationhood for Iraqi Kurds through a website called, which was, as we all know, totally against the Bush Administrations’ plans for Iraq.

I used to have a landlord who was a telephone technician with a high security clearance. He would wire the phones for events involving the President of the United States. In August 2004 he did the phones for a Schwarzenegger fundraiser for Bush’s re-election and called me with a list of telephone technicians’ names to send an email to the communications officer for White House communications certificates (of appreciation, I assume). The email address was the person’s name and a collection of letters indicating the White House on the move. I hesitate to offer even a partial version of the email address for fear of being brought up on charges of violating national security.

That night I got an email from my collaborator that said “thanks :-)” in the subject field and when I clicked on it, it went pink. It was stopped because it was a virus. That’s the moment I imagine George Bush laughing his little laugh.

Firstly, my friend never sent me emails, and secondly, he was not the kind of person who would put “thanks :-)” in the subject field. I asked him later if he sent me the email and he said he hadn’t. I asked if anyone else complained they’d gotten a virus from him and he said no. So, my second contact with the White House and I get a virus. Did they know who I was or does it happen to everyone? My first contact simply resulted in laughter (but that’s another story).

Although my friend bought the domain name with a credit card online via a technology that is supposed to be as fast as the speed of light in October 2002, it took six months for the domain name to be released. We had already designed the website and began its construction. When the domain name was released in April 2003, I called my friend a couple of weeks later on my cell phone and said, “Now that the domain name has been released, we should kick the website into high-gear.”

The next day, someone broke into my apartment and stole my laptop. Coincidence? Maybe.

If it’s not true about the three stars being a secret code for a watch list, there is only one other explanation: we are a country of ratings.

The profits of our television and radio industries are determined by ratings. Movie and hotel reviews are displayed in a series of stars. A five-star hotel is the best. Five stars seem to denote the best there is in many fields and businesses.

Is that what my government is doing with me? Is my government rating me on my passport so that when I go to other countries those countries can determine what kind of tourist I will be based on the amount of stars my government awarded me?

If so, I only have three stars. Not a very good tourist, huh? That doesn’t give me much bargaining power. I can’t go into a hotel a flash my passport and haggle the price of a room down $50— because I only have three stars! Now, if I had five stars, I’d be able to haggle effortlessly, because otherwise, I could take my five-star business elsewhere. Do three stars say I won’t be spending much money? Is it a class thing? Do I need a bigger bank account?

My question is: who in the government do I call to discuss the fact that, as a citizen, they’ve only given me a three-star rating? Is this a call-my-congress-person situation? And what do I have to do to up my rating?

I know, I know. The back taxes, student loans, not voting in several elections, never serving in the military, and my incessant rambling about the long-forgotten genius of Vanilla Ice, I could understand all of that taking away one star, but not two.

Half of Obama’s cabinet nominations had tax problems!

They wouldn’t take away the other star because of personality issues or intelligence constraints, would they? Or the way I dress? Or my ability to discuss wine and art? I’ve never had a sex scandal like many who serve in Congress.

I’d hate to think my government thinks I’m contrary or contentious. I shower daily and like to laugh. I don’t want to sound like an applicant, but I do consider myself more than just a three-star type of guy. It’s a bit of a disappointment to say the least.

Okay, so I don’t know what number president Milliard Filmore was, and I can’t tell you when the Department of Interior was formed, but I know enough about American history. That couldn’t make me lose a star.

I guess, maybe, reporting on American Indian issues, trying to expose drugs in Iran Contra, interviewing Leonard Peltier back in the late 80s-early 90s, and maybe trying to subvert the Iraq war with democratic nationhood for Kurds, might make me….

Oh, I see….

Maybe the government considers all of that when determining one’s good citizen rating….

Well, there’s only one thing to do—see if there’s a free pamphlet I can get on how to be a better American. How to improve your credit rating pamphlets are available from the Federal Government by the truckload. I am sure there is a pamphlet on how to improve upon a three-star citizen rating.

There’s gotta be one star in it for me just for ordering it.

Maybe there’s another star if I stop writing this blog.

Redemption. That’s what America’s all about.

I pledge allegiance to the flag ….