I’m glad to be back stateside after returning this week from a trip to Colombia where I rediscovered a romance with the entrepreneurial spirit and free market, values which appear to be alive and well in Cartagena and elsewhere in the country.

While the United States’s Constitution restricts the powers of government in ways no other country has managed, you might be fooled after the experience of traveling between the two countries, as I did. Especially when I turned my phone on for the first time in nearly two weeks to find the news of the incident at the right-to-work rally in Michigan. Consider the right to work in Colombia, by contrast.

Immediately upon arriving in Cartagena, you are met with a bevy of people offering to fulfill any traveling requirement you might have — carry your bags? change your money? take a taxi? hungry for a sandwich? coffee? jugo de maracuya? After a few wonderful days in Cartagena, a beautiful city full of colonial charm, food, history, culture, and of course entrepreneurship,  I took a bus up the coast the jungle of Tayrona. Along the way, the small “colectivo” bus picks up vendors walking along the roads selling their wares. Hot homemade arepas, cheese curls, cokes, etc. No licenses required (no sanitation requirements either, but they looked remarkably clean)–they’d board, offer us their item, then get off by the side of the road when they’d finished. How refreshing! This freedom of exchange of goods was mirrored at every level.

Contrast it with America. The trip began with my usual opt-out of the TSA naked scanner. I’ve noticed in recent months TSA agents, emboldened, have taken to openly ridiculing Americans like me who eschew their standard protocol. During this particular encounter in Chicago, the TSA agent challenged my request to opt out, sneering, “it doesn’t cause cancer.” Trying to avoid an argument, I murmured that it was “a matter of principle,” but she persisted:

TSA: “WHAT principle?”

Me (murmuring, tired): “Fourth amendment…”

TSA: “Oh REALLY?”

Me: “Are you supposed to be arguing with me about this?”

Pretty standard, and mirrored by my experience last evening upon returning to the U.S. and rechecking in at the Fort Lauderdale security. It was more exciting this time, after I made it known that I could not see my purse for a full ten minutes while I waited for the TSA to decide to provide a “female assist.” After overhearing other TSA agents ridiculing me, I attempted to point out where this was going on to the supervisor who had, by this point, been sent over to further enforce TSA separation-from-property-procedures. When asked which TSA agents were ridiculing me, I attempted to indicate this to the Fort Lauderdale TSA supervisor.

At which point, the TSA supervisor told me I was not allowed to point.

As you can imagine, it only became more exciting after that as my traveling companion insisted upon filming the goings on.

When did we as a country let the post-9/11 concerns allow our government to develop the ever-growing and empowered bureacracy of the TSA to tell us we are the ones who are the criminals. We shuffle along, shoes in hand and liquids in baggies, tired and dejected as we comply with one of the most tangible expressions of government power over our lives. Law-abiding Americans, subjected to derision and suspicion from our government, and ridiculed by Obama’s Blueshirts for opting out….

Colombia might not have our Constitution to restrict their government, but it does have a people who are brimming with vigor for making a buck (peso). They are poor but they aren’t lazy. They want to sell, to survive, and to flourish. They are proud of their country and desperate to overcome the image drug lords, now kept more in check, have subjected their country to for decades.

Upon exiting Colombia en route to the United States, I was met with an efficient and thorough, but not overly invasive security protocol. Officers questioned me, obviously searching out signs that I was more than a backpacker who had spent two weeks in their country. I have no doubt that as a backpacker traveling to a country with drug problems, I was profiled. Makes sense, and when I gave no cause for concern, I went on my way.

I’ll spare you the details about the ridiculous customs at the Fort Lauderdale airport, where so many people lined up to wait for to pass through that the line went around the entire perimeter of the baggage claim area, spiraled in like some amusement park ride, and made our airport look like, well, a third world country.

Time for all of us to opt-out of the regulations and bureaucracy that grow with each day. When you say no to Obama’s TSA Blueshirts you say no to the path our country is on. Time for a return to principle, not making a flight. Time to re-opt-in to the entrepreneurship and freedom that used to define America. Others are waiting to claim that title.

 
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