B O R D E R S ... What's Up With That?

Boarders ... What's Up With That?

I recently posted a heavy tweet by @public_archive musing on the sad fact that most Americans do not realize they can not leave their country. A tweet that was further discussed with over 20k in retweets. There was a lot of debate around the clarity of that statement and the OP went on to elaborate upon the original tweet. I am interested in a dialogue around the closing of borders to U.S. citizens but I am completely against defending my fellow Americans. I don't think anyone in any country with numbers that high this far into the pandemic should be allowed to leave their homes let alone the continent. I know the statistics and stereotypes around Americans and international travel. I understand the reasons for them as I have been there and done that. However, what I do not understand are actual Americans really complaining or better yet trying to explain the position they have been put in due to these imposed travel bans. I know my sentiment is ironic considering a month ago I was crossing a border and going through customs myself. But now that I am here and looking back on what I was experiencing there ... hindsight is 20/20. And as much as it would have hurt after being stuck there especially after all of that time; now I totally do not see anything wrong with anyone telling me to stay where I was at. 

Pandemic aside I personally felt like the American passport didn't hold much weight anymore. Last year I experienced a lot of difficulty trying to use it. It was no longer an out in certain situations. It didn't help me in any capacity. For the first time in my very ordinary, Black life I was able to use my German identification and the Deutsch language to proceed in all sorts of situations where being American as well as Black would have hindered me. Frankly, nobody cared that I was an American and it didn't get me any special treatment. The wonder that was me speaking Deutsch and flashing that card was stifling to other Europeans in and outside of Germany. And it also worked wonders back home in the U.S. for the dumbest of things. I know I am lucky to have a passport from any country but in this instance of sudden border closures you can see what difference does it make if there is no official residency elsewhere? People who are in the states right now regardless of whatever visas they have cannot leave. People who have passports that require renewal to travel or who have lost their passports are in limbo at minimum six to eight months. So those without a passport, nothing has really changed as they couldn't leave anyways and the argument to Europe was we don't care because we cannot travel anyways. But what about having the ability to leave like most any other global citizen? The U.S. right now is Cuba for everyone without residency somewhere else. Think about that?

If I think about who is to blame for these numbers of new infections and deaths, I blame everyone. At the end of the day the knowledge was public for all to see before any government agency got involved. That is why I began preparing for what was know as Corona virus at the time in late January and early February. By the time New York, California and Washington were affected I already had shelf stable foods, water, masks, gloves, etc. And no it wasn't some hoarded, stockpile like international media has suggested. By the time the American government chose to inform the public I already knew they had missed a major opportunity to inform citizens. I didn't gather this from watching this happen. No, I simply encountered way too many people who had no idea what I was talking about. I found that cashiers thought my shopping was abnormal. Neighbors were still socializing with other neighbors. Friends were planning travel abroad or expecting for me to host them. It was as if whatever I was reading and seeing via my resources was a hoax just as Tonald Drump has said. And I did have some doubt but I did not want to take any risks. I figured I would rather be safe than sorry especially in the company of my mother. Most Americans rely upon the television for their news. This includes all demographics and if it is or isn't on TV that is how the American people chose to react to current affairs. My own mother is one of them. She has no social media and the internet is a resource to follow up on what she sees on television. She doesn't read the paper. She doesn't own a radio. So if the news tells her not to wear a mask she listens. And to be perfectly honest it is the same thing happening here in Germany. Older Germans seek information from TV and local newspapers. All of this nonsense around what is compulsary or not is upheld by the media which is passed down by government. Germans mind whatever rules and regulations government provides. And I personally feel German government is no more aware of Covid-19 than the American government. They are just better equipped to steer their citizens in the right direction and everyone follows. The information given here was early and often preventing rapid spread. However, since the beginning of the pandemic a lot has changed and Germany has failed to keep up with that. Or maybe it is the other way around where German citizens much like American ones just don't care to follow up, stay informed and above all bliebt zu Hause.

I have been anti-consumption for years and all news to me is driven by the Internet. I get details from Twitter, Newsy and YouTube. My virtual friends via social media share a lot that will influence my decision making. However, real time as-is news and politics aren't really accessible to me and I like it that way. I think this keeps me somewhere in between informed and panicked. I also seem to know about important things way ahead of my family and peers because I use these curated outlets. I would imagine if I didn't subscribe to content around prepping, epidemiology, survival etc that I wouldn't be as informed. The same goes for this latest travel information. I actually read about this new travel ban on a revolving news billboard. The kind all over German train stations and near massive U-Bahn junctions. I just happened to look up and see that U.S. citizens would not be allowed to enter the European Union. And I knew it was coming from a strong rumor within expat and travel forums but I honestly didn't think it would become official. I expected for Americans to go into a fit of rage. I expected for them to stop focusing on other important matters like protesting or the virus and get all over this. But instead when people made commentary they defended their inaction around how isolated and ill informed Americans are. The general rebuttal was that we never have the means or the resources to travel anyways. And then the entire conversation got steered into classism and the rich. Where in reality the discussion needs to be about how freedom isn't automatic. That the ability to do whatever, go wherever can be switched in a heartbeat. And we all know all too well that preparing and planning for leaving or the ability to leave is pointless if you never go. So anyone regardless of the size of their bank accounts can now be in the same boat with everyone else ... pun was intended.

To be clear this new restriction is about residency not nationality. It doesn't apply to those who have officially residency in an E.U. country. Unfortunately, if you have some sort of temporary or tourist visa that doesn't suffice as residency. If you have multiple passports they must be presented with your residency credentials pertaining to your final destination. And you will have several points of confirmation of your documents from booking transportation, to borders and to whatever bureaucracy you may face on the other side. Marriage. A child. Your job opportunity. Or university acceptance. All of these do NOT confirm your residency. If you are wishing to enter Germany after a stent somewhere else you MUST prove your residency with an Aufenthaltstitel or residency card and perhaps a copy of your anmeldung to a specific address that may be confirmed. These documents prove where you live and you cannot utilize them to go for basic tourism. If you want to take a short train or drive within your resident country or nearby countries without border control you are free to. But if you plan on flying or taking a long train unless you have residency and the documents to support it you could find yourself in an awkward position. And I have seen a lot of people anticipate trouble and travel anyways. You do not want to get stuck anywhere and you do not want to be deported. The pandemic is still a thing, so the idea that you should travel to test the restriction is really a bad one. Wherever you call home you should stay there at least until there is some clarity from the International Air Transport Association or IATA and your government. There you can see real time direction from from the aviation industry as well as corresponding governments preparing you for legal, safe and easy travel. I personally used this to stragetize my repatriation back to Germany via the Netherlands. Unfortunately, this may be difficult for travelers at this time. You may want to reach out to whatever airline and your embassy directly.

For many full time travelers, remote workers, expats and retirees the world is borderless. I would much rather elaborate on them than on the 60% of Americans who choose to not see anything beyond the beach. The passport holders with homes away from home CAN travel freely and only expect certain health related requirements upon arrival at your final destination. This could run the gamut of voluntary quarantine, health screenings with temperature checks or immediate, involuntary quarantine regardless of symptoms. Because I personally went through a very lenient country I cannot speak to what this may look like. However, at this moment I would prepare as if wherever I went would demand that I check into a designated hotel for fourteen days. So you want to travel financially prepared for whatever expense you may incur as well as your health documents, appropriate amounts of medicines and everything you may need to be comfortable away from home for up to two weeks. And there is the general consensus that most Americans cannot be prepared for this level of uncertainty and risk. This is why Americans have programs like STEP to alert us if we choose to stay somewhere other than the States. However, I have also read many testimonies from Americans who wish they would have just sheltered in place in a country that afforded them more accommodations and amenities instead of repatriating back home. I don't think people would have alluded to having that luxury if they didn't have the means to afford it. There are plenty of people who would gladly be confined to a moderate to high end AirBnB or resort hotel for fourteen days. I also think they would expect that every aspect of their personal comfort would not be inclusive. I guess people like us are left out of the conversation which further pushes the narrative that Americans just love being in America. And those people are silent. And they should be as they have a lot to work on in their great, infected country.