Thanks to the effort of Ms. O down at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, my passport arrived in the mail earlier today. Actually, I got the notice to go pick it up at the Yoyogi post office, but you get the idea.
So now, I can leave Japan on the quick if need be.
This is my first passport of the “new design” that was put in effect sometime around 2007. My old passport was pre-Al Quaida, so it just had the security features of ten years ago. But this new one is something else.
There is some mystery chip inside that is represented by some funky hieroglyphic on the front cover. It’s like I’m not just an American but also part of the secret society of Gilead or something, as evidenced by my special symbol.
But that’s just the half of it. The thing is 52 pages big–twice the number of my old book. The cover is thicker, and it’s like having a little prayer book or catechism. Each page has an inspirational quote by a famous American, many of them presidents. (What I should say is that there are quotes by Americans who were famous at one time or another, and some them even were presidents.)
What’s glaring is the artwork. The old book had different seals of the 50 states, or some other drab decoration that would be fitting for the place mat at like a Washington DC diner or something. It was kind of a kids pajamas motif, if you want your kid to grow up to be a geek. I am flipping through the old one now. All it was saying was that the United States is made up of a bunch of different states. I doubt that I could find the New Jersey state seal in the mix.
This new one, every page is a patriotic panorama, or a vista of the Great American West, the Manifest Destiny. Page 18 has cattle farmers, page 20 the locomotive. Hey, that was nothing. On pages 2 and 3, where my information is listed, there is giant bald eagle, sizeably larger than my own picture, above me as if he is watching over me. A big American flag, too. And some strands of wheat in between, in case you don’t realize we’re a breadbasket as long as the climate holds up.
I mean, that whole page 2 and 3 says “effen YOU ESS of AY!” Never mind me, Jack, it’s the fact I’m a part of this great land. I’m not just from any country, I’m from America! A nation that tamed a continent, as you can clearly see for the next 20 or so pages! (Just in case you use up the early pages, the whole panorama repeats itself around page 30.)
And even if they miss the point that we are this big country, with big ideas and those wide open spaces to think about them in, the back inside cover has a painting of the earth behind the moon (we were there!) and the Voyager spacecraft, which was one of ours taking our special message of Americanness out of the solar system.
I think that Voyager craft was the one that had the naked man and woman on the plaque. But that’s so ’70’s. It’s about cactuses now. Cacti. Mountain ranges. Mount Rushmore. THE STATUE OF LIBERTY.
It’s more than a passport, it’s a patriotic document. Page 52, section D, even reminds you to file your taxes no matter where you are in the world. This is a passport that does not mess around with what being a U.S. citizen means.
I am having a bit of fun sounding sarcastic, and to be honest with you, I really like what they did with the new style passport. Sure, every inch of it is saying “This great Land of Ours!”, and what’s wrong with that? I keep an open mind, but regular readers know, I am a patriotic American. And so maybe border control is being given one certain message (like this is the most gaudy, in-your-face travel document going), but it just fits the stereotype so many other people have of us so well.
“Hey, you just stamped ‘arrived at immigration’ over our sacred Liberty Bell!” “You just pasted a visa sticker on top of George Washington!” Gotta make them think before they start treading on the good ol’ U.S. “Here, you wanna paste something in this special book of mine, well, why don’t you pick one of the Bonanza pages, in a rectangle where the big sky is.” Try to get that stamp lower than Lincoln’s chin this time, or I’m going to have to send the Bald Eagle after you.
It’s fitting that mine will expire on July 20, 2020, which is the 51st anniversary of the first moon landing.
Man, is it going to be interesting having my visa and re-entry stickers transferred to this new passport. I’ll have to show them that the page pictures repeat—after I express my deep patriotic love for the Liberty Bell.