Tuesday, July 2, 2013


I work at a government-funded laboratory where I have been carrying out research for nearly 20 years. Over this time I have seen the facility transition from an open campus site to one guarded nearly as heavily as a military base. Yet the changes have been so subtle that many likely have not noticed what has been taken from us. With each new disturbing international incident, whether school shooting, hijacking, terrorist attack, or sabre-rattling antic of various foreign governments, new rules, regulations, and security measures are put into place. More guards, more patrols, more fences, more vehicle searches, more locks, more barriers, more entry requirements, more stern faces, more suspicion. Who or what do they think they are keeping out?

The more time I have to spend playing their over-the-top war games and filling out their security forms and protocol documents, the less time I have to do the research that I am here for. Recently I was asked to serve as the on-site mentor for a group of graduate students who are visiting for the summer to work on a project that I am leading. Two of the students, who have been enrolled at a major U.S university for several years, happen to be from Iran. I was just asked to complete a detailed security and monitoring proposal for both workers over the duration of their visit. Wow.

So, our young students are no longer young students, the future of our field. What we know about them from working closely with them for several years does not matter. They wear new labels now. Potential threat. Possible terrorist. Unfriendly. Enemy. The point here is not whether such security measures are necessary or warranted or wise given the state of the world today. The point here is the deep lament that just saturates me knowing that our world has degenerated into this disgusting condition and this seemingly irreversible state.