Somewhere in Jakarta you'll find a frail old couple with broken hearts. Last Thursday, they were crushed by the mighty fist of the American law that forbids them to see their newly-wed daughter. She lives in the US with her Yankee husband, but her parents "are not qualified" to be granted a tourist visa and set foot onto the Land of the Free.
A friend of mine witnessed the scene, while she was quietly waiting at the American embassy for her 7 o'clock interview in order to get her own visa. She is a thirty-something professional, fluent in 4 languages including English and French, with a decent salary (and therefore a healthy bank account to show the autorities), and, last but not least, an American friend who voucher for her - this damn Yankee she fell in love with. She expected a longuish interview where she'd explain why she wanted to visit the US and display all the required documents that proves a single woman from the Thirld World can support herself in this rich country. Instead she had a couple minutes sliding the documents to a government agent, stiffly seated behind a glass window, while the 30 persons waiting their turn behind her were privy to the details of her personal life. And finally, she got a stamp: NO. Not qualified. End of the story. Next!
This made me think: when, ever, has a Westerner had to go through such a humiliating process in order to get the right to visit any country? In Indonesia, you fly in, wait in line, pay 25 bucks and you're good to go for a month. You might say, were you an American who desires to see the beloved land of North Korea, you'd have problems. Okay, but still. Take my case: while I was a student, I also fell for one of those God-damned Yanks. For three years I flew to the US far more often than my meager student allowance would allow (ah! Credit! Savior of fresh flame!) Believe me, I was a far bigger risk to become an illegal immigrant than my Indonesian friend. But I never had the need to even apply for a visa; I am French - and even that is more welcomed than a Muslim.