Is America really under attack to the point that the life of American citizens has to be so hard? This morning I had the horrible experience of taking my son Tom to renew his passport to the American Consulate in Madrid, and ordeal that took three hours and it´s not finished. My son is a US Citizen and his passport had just expired. My son is also a Spanish citizen, so I have recently been exposed to the process of renewing both his passports and I am sorry to say that the American system is both awful and humiliating.
First of all, the access to the American Consulate in Madrid is a mission impossible in itself. Forget about WiFi access at the consulate. Not only is there no WiFi there, but there´s no phone usage because the Americans are so terrified of terrorists that they don´t allow you to bring any electronic devices into the consulate, not even a Nokia phone. Moreover, once you come in, Americans and non Americans are thrown into one small room –that is probably unsafe in case of fire– in which consulate employees only appear as animals in the zoo out of glass cages. I wanted to photograph or film this crowded for my blog, but, of course, I couldn´t as that in itself would constitute a security threat so there´s no way the overcrowded conditions can be reported other than by my description.
And once in, what you have to do to renovate a simple expired passport is out of this world. In the case of my son we failed to get his passport renewed because my presence, his presence and his expired passport –which was of course all that was needed in Spain to renew his Spanish passport– was not enough. The American Consulate requires that his mother had to come as well, that we had the social security card and birth certificate and both his mother and I had to swear in front of a consul (who is behind the thickest bullet proof glass that I have seen in my life) that all we said was true. This American swearing thing just drives me nuts. Why is just signing not enough?
In the meantime, the application for the passport renewal is very confusing itself. Nobody helps you to fill it up. All embassy employees are in glass cages so they cannot see very well what you have if you show it to them and there are so many people waiting that the whole place feels like a crowded subway that is not moving.
Will America one day learn not to be terrorized anymore? Will America learn to stop seeing most people as potential enemies? I certainly hope that Barack Obama not only wins the election, but changes the rethoric of fear of George W Bush that has hurt USA so much.
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