photos by nacrowe
so there i am at SUVARNABHUMI AIRPORT in BANGKOK (pictured below) just hours after leaving MYANMAR and my intense year of teaching there. im waiting for a 10 hour+ connecting flight to HAMAD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (pictured above) in QATAR which will in turn connect me to an even more insane 17 hour flight stateside. as an aside, DONALD TRUMP only hours before had decided to cut off ties with the ARAB nation, despite seeming to forget that our naval fleet was stationed there. but thats another story in itself.
i just remember sitting there taking it all in: the architecture of the airport, the fact that i was lying supine on an extended couch with built-in charge port and hassle free high-speed wifi. traveling is stressful, but this moment wasnt.
what people fail to realize is how beautiful these foreign airports are. and they should be. when visitors arrive, even those just passing through en route to somewhere else, obtain an impression about a country through infrastructure.
SUVARNABHUMI for its part is an absolute gem of an airport. and im an expert on that. i've been to countless airports in over 60 countries worldwide. this airport is setup for the comfort of all tiers of travelers. same with HAMAD INTERNATIONAL in QATAR. the terminals there had geodesic architectural roofs that both evoked palm trees and ARABIC calligraphy. both airports were clean and efficient and at no point did i feel like i was in a cattle call. being in those airports felt like an experience.
now i understand that both those countries are essentially run by hereditary dictators that largely curtail freedom of speech and impose ethnic violence. that and in the case of QATAR utilize what is effectively slave labor for the construction of stadiums for the upcoming WORLD CUP. sadly that labor policy is all too common in the ARAB states as a whole. so i understand all that. absolutely. in some cases i even saw that shit firsthand (looking right at you KUWAIT). not supporting their actions whatsoever, but man i have to hand it to them, those hereditary dictators did create two incredible modern airports. as propaganda by way of architecture goes, both are top notch examples.
now im going to fast forward to JFK, the worst entry point for a supposed world-class democracy ever.
i arrive and the first thing you notice is how dilapidated and crusty the international terminal looks. its an embarrassment. you are yelled at several times to stay in line and eventual you are dumped into the customs section. there are two lines, one for US citizens and those holding visas and then the other line for everyone else. while standing in line full of a wide spectrum of humanity, all tired after a 17+ hour flight, we are all besieged by a wall of televisions all tuned to FOX NEWS where SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS was giving a speech about the then-current MUSLIM ban. she was literally talking about that room and others like. people visiting family, playing tourist. normal stuff. just seemed so incongruent with reality.
at that point you had one of the TSA agents pointing to the non-US line travelers and pointing to the customs officials at the gate. "now when you get up there, no funny business, okay?" this officer declared. "remember, no funny business, SPEAK ENGLISH."
i wanted to crawl in a hole and die i was so furious. first time back home post 2016 election. WELCOME TO TRUMPLAND.
the thing that always gets me is that from the American perspective, we feel like these people should understand what a blessing it is for them to be here. we fail to realize that AMERICA is not special. people aren't any freer here or more intelligent or hardworking than they are in EUROPE or ASIA or SOUTH AMERICA or AFRICA or CENTRAL AMERICA. the whole concept of AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM was a mirage we bought into while our infrastructure and way of life was crumbling around us due to greed and economic disparities. when i see JFK or LAGUARDIA, or to a lesser extent NEWARK, airports i'm reminded about how the AMERICAN DREAM is as failed a reality as these crumbling hollow remnants of yesteryear's optimism and ambition about the future.
but that is what i see as an AMERICAN. just think about the message we send to foreigners, you know, those people that we say we dont care about yet compare ourselves favorably to. just think of what they see. if i was them, i'd connect through CANADA if possible and just fly over us.