There was a guy I heard on the radio today who said he kept getting searched and questioned at every airport he flew out of, or arrived in, since 2002 on a return trip from The Netherlands. His name is Dr. Hasan Elahi, a similar name to someone on a government terrorist Watch List.
He eventually asked TSA authorities for a phone number, so he could notify them every time he was flying somewhere just so he could avoid being questioned for an hour. Every time he travelled he would dutifully phone up a specific person in the FBI and let them know.
Finally he decided to put up a website that works with a GPS that posts on the website everywhere he goes: every time he leaves home, when and where he went, the bed he slept in, the food he ate, the toilet he visited, lots of pictures, everything goes on the website () and anyone can look at it. He calls it an art project. He calls himself a privacy artist. (He bleaches his hair and dyes it yellow. He shaves off his eyebrows.) He now wears a GPS device that pinpoints his exact location on a map on his website.
Every once in a while he looks at who goes to his website: CIA, FBI, Dept of Homeland Security. He said he is glad there are patrons of the arts in each of these federal agencies.
It reminded me of the extra mile Jesus recommended in the Sermon on the Mount, a passage that many believe is part of the nonviolent anti-hierarchy philosophy of Jesus.
Jesus said if a Roman soldier commands you to carry his pack for a mile, carry it two miles. According to Roman law a soldier could command any person walking along the road to carry his 70 lb. pack 1/2 a mile. But, as is the case with people carrying weapons for a government, the soldiers did not always obey that rule. They would sometimes make a person carry their pack for twice the allowed distance. Jesus said, “Go with him two miles.” Walter Wink imagines a humorous argument between the soldier and the Jewish peasant.
“Give me my pack back.”
“No, no. I’ll be glad to carry it another mile.”
“No, give it back to me now.”
“No, it’s okay. I can carry it for you.”
“For the last time, give me my pack back.”
Dr. Hasan Elahi is doing the exact same thing. “You want to question me about where I go and why I go there for an hour every time I fly? You want to invade my privacy? Okay, here is everything all the time. Look at where I am and what I am doing whenever you want to. In fact anyone can.” And what do we find when we look at Dr Elahi’s website? We find he eats food, sleeps in beds, uses the toilet. Nothing exciting, except maybe speaking for TED talks.
We live in the one of the most spied upon societies in history, spied upon by our own government more than the Stasi spied on the German people during Hitler’s terrifying Nazi era, partially because it is much easier now in our electronic age. And Dr. Elahi has turned our nation’s spying into an art project, a game. He has registered a powerful protest, that makes the TSA, FBI, CIA and Department of Homeland Security look a little bit silly, all nonviolently, and without breaking any laws. All he did was make their jobs easier. He gave them what they kept asking for and more, just exactly what Jesus told the poor powerless Judean Jews to do to the powerful Roman soldiers in 30 A.D.