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        Sunday, February 12, 2006
        Weapon of self-protection
        It is surprising how self-protection is a culturally embedded phenomenon. What is perfectly accepted in one culture is a grotesque crime in the other. A perfect example is the Haitian woman who was arrested at Fort Lauderdale airport in Florida for possession of a curious self-defense weapon in her luggage. A human head! Not a skull, but a head. And according to BBC online, with some hair, skin and “quite a lot of dirt.” The reason – some sort of voodoo protection for the woman whose name is Ms. Severe. That made me realize why people in Ethiopia go to great length to give their children names with positive meanings such as Achamyelesh (you have no equal) and Mandefro (who would dare look down on you) because we believe that people live up to their given names.

        The fascinating fact about Ms. Severe's case is that she is a US resident. I am aware that some nationalities live a very secluded life in their host country within their own communities, speaking their own languages, going to grocery stores which specifically cater to their culture and even TV programs in their own languages. What I didn’t realize was the extent of seclusion to a point where one would attempt to bring a human head in the US. The other puzzling fact is how did Severe manage to pull this off on the side of the Haitian immigration? Or was it a case of…

        Immigration officer: Ms. Severe, have you packed your suitcase yourself?

        Severe: Yes, sir.

        IO: Have you accepted any items from somebody else?

        Severe: Yes, a human head.

        IO: What is the purpose of this item?

        Severe: It’s a weapon of self-protection.

        IO: Alright then, have a pleasant flight, Ms. Severe.

        That is very well possible since Voodoo has been recognized as a religion in Haiti since 2003. I think a simple brochure from the Haitian Ministry of Culture/Tourism with a list of items not recommended on flights outside the country would solve this type of problem. Just the title DO NOT TAKE and then the list - human head, live or dead farm animals, kidnapped children.... Simple!

        This case is a reminder of the scary question - how can the US protect its borders? Is it enough for the US to focus on just protecting its borders to guarantee safety to its citizens or should it spend more money to train foreign immigration officers, particularly from poor nations and supply their airports with fancy gadgets? Would it be killing two birds with one stone to invest in foreign development – alleviate poverty somewhere else and guarantee national security?

        I am curious to hear the defending arguments of Ms. Severe’s lawyers. Are they going to say in those fancy legal terms, “Your Honor, the owner of the head was dead anyway and Ms. Severe is a victim of the clash of an ancient tradition and modern norms”? Perhaps this would give the Dutch a perspective in which to continue the rediculous headscarf debate. It could be worse than covering ones head in public – think in terms of a head in a suitcase.
        posted by Fikirte @ 12:03 AM   Digg!
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