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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The police are racist.

Edit: I can't believe I forgot to include anything about racial profiling. It exists. That's why all cops are racist. They're required to be.

All I want for Chanukah is an end to white supremacy. #Chanukah Action to End Police Violence


The following is in response to comments on my Facebook post calling for a protest against systemic racism. Check them out to understand the context.


If what you are using is free then you are the product. For example Google and Facebook make money by selling its users' data to corporations who buy advertising space. We the readers of the news are in fact the product that the news networks sell to the corporations that buy advertising space in the news. Basic laws of supply and demand say that the news will fit the demands of the corporations who are buying the product. This Propaganda Model implies corporate interest, making the media biased towards such power that is "protected and served" by the cops (Manufacturing Consent, Herman and Chomsky). Take for example The Guardian, which I cite a lot. It is critical of the United States and is losing money. Given that politicians cannot get elected without corporate money, it is safe to say corporations effectively control both the media and the government, which also controls the police. That's the theory, empirically confirmed by Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting that the media is biased against blacks, not cops.

This does not contradict the distraction and sensationalism in the media but rather reinterprets it. Electronic media, being cheap, instantaneous and worldwide, inherently leads to sensationalism as information competes for viewers. Corporations capitalize on our attention, profit from our procrastination, institutionalize a rhetoric over logic, sound-bite driven media conducive to bad argumentation and uncritical thinking, exclude rational content, isolate news out of its context, and trap us into addictive spirals of distraction. In a deluge of infotainment, we become passive receptacles of trivial information incapable of active participation in democracy. (Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman)

Media coverage of the incidents of the past few months focused on the particular dead black person and the cop who shot him. Not much on the militarization of American police, or the fact that black people get wasted every day in America. Or that they have been shut out of the economy and are desperate. No, just focus this single killing. Have bullshit commentary from cops about whether or not lethal force was necessary. Distraction, in other words.

There's no historicity in the reporting. Just an individualization of the case. Which, like the expectation of violence after the verdict, is a red herring. When people's first move is to criticize looting, which has been minimal, they deliberately avoid the talk about both the criminalization of blackness and militarization of the police. Put differently, they position capital above human lives.

A common refrain is that the media has a liberal bias -- yet this is a myth. The logic goes that violence gets sensationalized to make us think that we live in a very violent society, which is fear mongering that will be used as an excuse for more government regulations to keep us safe, as if these encroaches on our freedoms and will lead towards a totalitarian government. While it is true the media sensationalizes violence, what's wrong with this argument is that it ignores the kind of violence sensationalized: black on white crime, to make us fear black people.

Thus the media is a part of systemic racism that permeates throughout all societal institutions like education, capitalist industry, academia, law, and, of course, the police, all of which which are what these protests are about. In fact, there is this concept among activists called “intersectionality” that connects all these different axes of oppression under the same root cause and analyzes their relations to each other, like how many cops oppressed as working-class does not excuse the police as an institution. It is not the protesters that ignore the context and focus on the police but rather the culprit is the media and its representation of protesters.

Meanwhile, you claimed that the media "inundates black youth with the message that cops are out to get them" as a distraction from the real source of oppression, the "tremendous socioeconomic injustice that keeps the black population in poverty." If this were true that blacks follow what the media tells them then they would largely trust the media. However, 75% of blacks think the media does not accurately cover their community, which negates your claim. Blacks distrust the police significantly more than whites do, so if their views aren't coming from the media then that leaves their lived experiences for us to listen to, which is more accurate than the bias coming from whites and the media.

Why, then, are blacks violent towards cops? Let's go back to your original rebuttal.


Your first paragraph

Adjusted for crime rates, black teens are still vastly more likely to be killed by police than whites, however the data is incomplete since some police departments do not bother recording such killings, as if black lives don't matter. Nonetheless, a single scientific study doesn't have to account for the context of each situation, nor should it. That requires other studies, not better science, like the ones that show violence is a symptom of poverty, thanks to the decades of dedicated study from the likes of W.E.B. du Bois a hundred years ago and up through to today. And poverty, like slavery, is not an accident (Nelson Mandela). It is the manifestation of capitalist exploitation of labor and oppression of workers.

It’s great that you asked the question “why,” why do police kill more blacks than whites, and discovered the reason is blacks are more violent than whites. But have you asked yourself why blacks are more violent than whites? If you're stepping on someone's neck and they are clawing at your ankle trying to get you off, are you going to get angry at them for clawing at you or step off their neck? This isn’t to justify violence against cops but to at least understand why it occurs, from then we can say the high rates of police killings are not justified.

I’m not going to criticize violence against the cops though because that can be used as fodder for further oppression of blacks. Activists from Gandhi to King follow this belief as well. “Gandhi made it clear that while he was opposed to murder under any circumstances, he also refused to denounce the murderer. ... It is always morally superior, he insisted, to oppose injustice through non-violent means than through violent means. However, to oppose injustice through violent means is still morally superior to not doing anything to oppose injustice at all.” Moreover, growing up in a life that knows only violence one can expect that those suffering through it day to day will speak the same language of their oppressor, in a cathartic resistance that gives meaning to their existence (The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fannon).

Additionally, riots and looting have in fact worked for the oppressed throughout history. Blacks bodies used to be considered property, so the act of looting was literally liberation from oneself. Since property is theft (see end) that police protect in service to the capitalists then it makes sense to loot the white-owned chains that infest black communities, to take back what was stolen from them. If whites own most of the wealth due to a racist system then the police defending it are complicit. There’s just so many ideas in this essay, “In Defense of Looting,” read this if you are going to read one link I cite.

The police shootings are "justified" by a system that criminalizes black life reminiscent of the period that effectively made it a crime to be black in public between civil war to the civil rights era (Slavery by Another Name, Douglas Blackmon). Just a couple decades of freedom in the middle of the century gave way to a return of racial oppression as the white supremacy increased their usage of the police as their pawns. It's funny how tons of whites accept how absurd the almost half-century old drug war is yet turn a blind eye to how it's used for throwing blacks in prison or the grave despite similar drug use rates between blacks and whites (The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander; if there is just one book I would recommend it is this one because it caters specifically toward your privileged, progressively sheltered liberalism. Critics have called out its Eurocentrism, white-washing, and ignorance of black movements and capitalist white supremacy).

Consider that alcohol is far more lethal yet it is legal. Why are blacks dealing crack criminalized while Budweiser isn't? Answer: racism gives alcohol companies power and profit. Police protect the white-owned alcohol and tobacco industry and criminalize the drugs common among blacks.

This issue further intersects with the for-profit prison system in the United States that incarcerates more people per population than any other country in the world. Combined with the racist drug war that unfairly targets blacks, the prisons were filled with blacks. Now consider that many corporations employ prisoners at less than a dollar an hour wages, which is basically modern day slavery. These concentration camps provide free labor, subsidized by the state and our tax dollars, to corporations that crush small businesses (Are Prisons Obsolete?, Angela Davis).

Also, when so many blacks have prison on their records it's hard to get jobs and can no longer vote, so they have to resort to theft or selling drugs to make a living, i.e., survive. It's especially hard when so many blacks are in poverty, with school systems just as segregated now as they were fifty years ago (Savage Inequalities, Jonathan Kozol) and given far less than white and privileged schools. Consider that schools are funded by property taxes, so if a community has low property value then little money will go to their schools, ensuring that poor communities have poor schools.

And there's environmental racism, dumping toxins in low income neighborhoods of people of color, many of which lower IQ and lead to increased violence. Try resisting against the white-owned fossil fuel and chemical industry and the police will protect their masters.

To attribute the cause of their own violence [and poverty] to themselves is blaming the victim of an oppressive white supremacy. It is a talking point that has been used by racists over and over again throughout the centuries of colonization, whether the racists are aware they are being racist or not (Racism Without Racists, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva).

Racists are probably the last group of people to identify as racist since it requires a certain degree of self-awareness that racists do not have. Acting as a racist requires a lack of empathy for people of color and thus a lack of understanding of what one’s actions are doing. It is not an intentional act of evil but rather a manifestation of subconscious ideology. Not being racist is thus not an identity but rather a continuous process that requires self-reflection of one’s thoughts and behaviors. I for example try to check my privileges as a white, straight male by catching myself stereotyping and then analyzing how subconscious thoughts make me act and think in racist ways. Additionally, and more pertinent to this essay, I’m still learning about racism embedded within society’s legal and power structures. I am not “not racist” but rather I advocate “anti-racism.”

To extend this point, there is this concept in sociology called institutionalization of ideology. It is similar to how many Americans sincerely believed the US liberated Iraq and didn't care about the immense amounts of oil there. Or that people truly believe global warming is a myth despite copious evidence otherwise. Likewise, segregation was once considered "separate but equal." Legal and power structures propagate ideas throughout a system with it ultimately reinforcing itself. Delusion goes all the way to the top sometimes but that does not mean we should judge people only by their intents and excuse the effects. While you and many within the police force may not identify as racist you may just not realize the implicit and explicit racism that permeates throughout society and is internalized by both blacks and whites. And by defending the police you are defending a militant institution that defends a racist status quo whether the working class cops are aware of it or not.

Your second paragraph

Would you mind providing a source to any of this? Something besides the racist hosting, please?

I should point out that my source is not just another Guardian article. The author of the piece, Isabel Wilkerson, wrote The Warmth of Other Suns, a historical study about the black migrations out of the South and to the rest of the United States, which has won numerous awards for its historical accuracy and clarity. I personally messaged her asking her to back up the quote that I selected to which she responded, “The rate of police killings are in the links to the Guardian piece. The rate of lynchings during early decades of the 20th Century come from the 1933 book, The Tragedy of Lynching" by Arthur F. Raper, as cited in The Warmth of Other Suns.”

Regardless, it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter if Darren Wilson is innocent or not. The recent killings however were the straw that broke the camel’s back after decades of racism coming from the police and multiple other angles. I’m deliberately ignoring the specifics of Ferguson here in order to emphasize the systemic oppression throughout society that the mass media leaves out. Perhaps you would benefit from reading up on what sociologists have to say about all this or at least read the letter signed by almost two thousand sociologists condemning the law enforcement, proposing a call to action and supporting Black Lives Matter, an activist group behind much of the organized resistance.

Your third paragraph

Iceland is well over 90% white and has a lower poverty rate than the United States, so it is not surprising that cops have only shot one person in their entire history. But even if they did have a higher crime rate it would not justify police killings. There are better tactics police can use to help their communities besides the violent methods of which they are trained, like using their words. Police in America used to do that to great effect but today are increasingly militarized as violence replaces argumentation as a tactic and so they are more likely to kill for trivial crimes. For example, Eric Garner, they guy who was choked to death in Staten Island for selling loose cigarettes could have been dealt with through rational discourse without resort to physicality. Too bad police aren’t trained in conversation, I imagine that creates a huge gap in the ability for police to empathize with their community.

Perhaps that is connected with the barring of people with high IQ’s from entering the police force. Stupid cops obey commands, don’t question what they are told, and don’t have as much capacity for using their words to deal with crime.

Finally, in regard to this study you shared that suggests police delay shooting at black people, well, that's all it is. Police delay shooting at blacks, so what? It does not mean the police as an institution are not racist, or do not have racist policies like racial profiling.

I hope I have made clear why the police are racist in the above paragraphs. Racism is a conversation that must continuous since it effects everybody and harms so many. I’m glad to have this civil conversation with you. Thank you for reading.

PS: other news I found.

Thought crime.

Domestic abuse among the police is horrifying, far worse than the NFL player abuses the media distracts us with.


1) "Property is theft" requires some background.

Capitalism, defined, is the private ownership of the means of production, a phrase that means one person or a small group of people owns and controls everything that goes into producing a product including the machines, mechanical processes, the land, and the labor of the workers. This manifests as the trio of capitalism: landowner, capitalist who pays the rent to the landowner, and the workers who sell their labor to the capitalist. Since the property the workers work on isn't theirs despite their labor it is effectively stolen from them.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem, entry two.

I left you last time at Avrum's pseudo-hostel, a place where he's trying to make his own hostel from scratch. The bedrooms, though cramped and crowded, are in the warm house while the drafty kitchen and living room are just outside in a big open space with a roof and walls made of tarps.

Although I felt very welcome the first time I stayed, for the three days before Thanksgiving weekend at my third cousins, this time was the opposite.

As I said in my last post, there was a miscommunication between me and the head of the place, Avrum. Though we quickly settled the issue though with my apology I think he stuck in his head that I was a moron for not interpreting his email correctly. He was very curt the rest of my time there and gave me tasks to do through a middle man, one of the other guests, like clean up the yard. The next morning, Tuesday December 2nd, I woke up to the sound of arguing, so I stayed in bed to avoid that conflict.

To make a long story short, Avrum got overwhelmed and released his anger at me, asking me to leave. He made some rude remarks to me too, saying I couldn't follow instructions. Beo, the Norwegian journeyman, gave me 200 shekels ($50) as I left as a little help to find my footing to which I am very grateful for. Thank you, Beo!

I went to the first place I could find wifi, a museum, and spent the next seven hours there trying to find a CouchSurfing host for the night, as well as doing various other emails and facebooking. Just as things were looking dim someone responded to me and I went straight to her place in Pisgat Zeev, a suburb north of Jerusalem, via the train. Thanks to the musuem guard who gave me ten shekels for the train and an IDF soldier who stayed with me during the ride helping me out since she was headed my way anyway, I got to Miri's place just after 9. Though we couldn't talk long and she had to leave early the next morning she gave me hot soup, a hot shower, a comfy bed, and the key to have her place to myself the next day.

After eating a lot and reading my nook, I took off on the train back south to Jerusalem where I hung out at the Abraham Hostel for a few hours to use their wifi. It eventually became time to move on to my next CouchSurfing host, Elyakim, who lives in Nachalat, a neighborhood near downtown Jerusalem. He had to leave for an hour soon after I arrived during which I used the time to do some emails and FaceTime with my Dad thanks to the wifi. When he got back we talked for hours about our travels, Israeli culture, and the similarities and differences in our lives. With the same amenities Miri gave me I took off the next morning.

Though it was only my second time hitchhiking ever, I pulled it off remarkably well with a straight shot from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. The guy spent most of his time talking on the phone in Hebrew but I gathered from our brief conversations that he's going through a divorce and trying to get a lot of money from his wife's rich parents, he hates cats, and he's "right wing" in that he wants Palestinians and arabs out the country since they are so violent towards Israelis. I wasn't about to take on that subject with my only ride to Tel Aviv but I nodded and smiled. He dropped me off as close as he could and I walked two hours straight for the beach.

It was on my way to there, walking through Tel Aviv, when all of a sudden, "SHOW ME WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!" came blasting out the radio of a falafel shop. Confused, I asked the owner what he was listening to. He couldn't speak English but a customer translated it was an Israeli news station broadcasting the protests of the police killings in America. I told him I have friends there protesting. Great work guys, your voices are heard all over the world. Solidarity from Israel and occupied Palestine.

At the beach I read Chomsky's Gaza in Crisis on my nook and carved designs into an avocado pit (see pic) to sell and fund my travels. The first one easily sold for five shekels ($1.25) though I think the old, white lady bought it out of sympathy. Next I'll paint it and up the price to twenty-five shekels.

At 8 that night I went to a meeting for All That's Left, an activist group of diaspora Jews opposed to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. I spent most of the discussion listening, chiming in only to let them know about my essay critiquing Birthright propaganda, but it no doubt felt great to stay in touch with the Left during my travels, continuing my streak of activism that I developed over the past two years at home. At the end of the meeting we took a group photo to show solidarity with the protests against police killings at home, (see the facebook pic here).

The meeting slowly dispersed though I stuck around since the hosts let me crash there for the night. A few of us went out to dance clubs after pregaming with vodka. In the morning I hung out with the two of the ATL members who lived there, learning some Arabic from one and getting served breakfast. Thank you so much for hosting me!

The next morning I walked to the Milk and Honey hostel in Jaffa where I secured a job working in return for shelter for the next month. Breakfast will come with it but I'll have to buy the rest of my meals on my own, so maybe I'll sell art to fund that. Any other ideas?

I ran along the beach up to the US Embassy where I met my Dad's friend Melissa at 3 pm who returned the water bottle I left at her place and ran back stopping to do some pushups in the sand a few times.

This hostel place seems pretty chill so far, just a few workers, one level with maybe thirty beds at most, a few blocks from the beach.

After spending a few hours at the hostel I felt the sudden loss of the joy I felt the past 12 hours staying ATL. I was now back in the mainstream world, or at least the "not-left." I mean, there's definitely the traveler type of person that eschews the mainstream but they're much different than activist types. Contrast the hippies that obsess over astrology and energy crystals with the organizers that build social movements and change the course of history. Basically, the difference between the United States and Israel felt far less than the difference between the United States and the underground radical left activism within my homeland.

Let me back track a bit. Five years ago I got my first urges to go travel, wanting to break free from the mental blocks that obstructed my life at home, stress, anxiety, and depression. In my mind, years of therapy and pills weren't working, and only a radical lifestyle shift would work to rejuvinate my mind.

In the past three years however, I've increasingly been learning and getting involved with radical left wing activism. It did nothing short of upend my worldview and led me to discover a vibrant underground culture of activism within my home country. It was with these people and spaces that I started to feel, you know, that sense of meaning people say is required in life (I could write a lot about how I think it's absurd that life has any inherent meaning but there's at least a psychological well-being factor that makes people happy despite the absurdity). There's so much energy and passion within these circles with rediculously intelligent people. Living with people who want to change the world and are actually doing is completely invigorating, it's a sense of community unmatched before in my life.

The ten days of my Birthright trip for example was just another vacation, another tack on my board of world travel, and wasn't life changing at all despite what some people say about it. In fact my whole time here in Israel so far pales in comparison to my time at the Beehive Design Collective that climaxed at the People's Climate March and Flood Wall Street protests. It was in downtown Manhattan among thousands of other activists at which I truly felt like I was doing what I wanted and gettting a meaningful life out of it.

I began to wonder, during my dive into activism, if I really needed to travel abroad to seek the mental shift I desired. Maybe it was here at home the whole time, that cliche that what we are looking for in life was with us all along. That was the gist of Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, right? Is it telling that I thought that book was cheesy when I read it six years ago?

So maybe it wasn't a radical lifestyle shift that would inevitably lead to a mental shift. Perhaps my intentional and passionate surge into activism was doing that already.

Indeed, during my research about world travel I've come across people who've become desensitized to the novelty of each new place and instead see how similar the world has become. I mean, cultures and subcultures will always exist but the effect of capitalism permeating everything it touches is undeniable. Personal accounts of the globalization, a euphemism for neoliberalism and American imperialism, and my readings about our culture infecting the whole world confirmed these thoughts I was having. But perhaps I was confirming my biases, blindly accepting ideas that aligned with my beliefs as true without critically thinking about them, and I should go travel anyway.

Anyway, I was having these thoughts long before I left the country to go travel the world. In the end, obviously, I decided to travel since I could stay with the Left during my travels, and it would be its own subculture within whatever country it is in, so even more of a culture change than simply traveling to typical places. It was a few months ago at the Northeast Climate Justice Gathering that an activist friend suggested that I stay with anarchists while traveling since they're friendly and open to hosting most people as long as you're not an oppressive asshole.

There's also the part that despite my surge into activism, I really wasn't getting better from depression. Despite my strong sense of connection to activists, my time in activism wasn't helping me gain back the life I once had. I still felt trapped, awkward, unreliable and inferior, not able to speak up or rebuild my confidence. So I left the country before it got worse. And so far I feel great, though definitely far from 100%, with the warm climate and new people to meet everywhere abating the stress. (Or am I just postponing truly working on my mental health? Well I've tried working on it for a long time, now I'm trying a new tactic. Any books to help with this on my travels?) My goal is to deconstruct and then reconstruct my identity, so that I can actually communicate effectively and work confidently with my activist community.

Also I've learned about free ways to travel (in addition to being white, male, and privileged) like CouchSurfing, WWOOF, and WorkAway that I can use after my free Birthright trip.

I'll travel while hopping from anarchists to anarchists, feeling home while traveling at the same time.

I found All That's Left. Where can I hop to next?


"Wherever you go, there you are."

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” - Marcel Proust, French novelist

Monday, December 1, 2014

Israel post-Birthright. Blog entry one.

Apparently I should do these more often.

I'm finalizing a 24 page essay on Birthright, exposing it's propaganda point by point. And I've been waiting to finish that before doing any other blogs.

But screw it, here's a quick one for everyone in the meantime. I guess this means you can see the rough draft of the essay if you skip to the previous blog entry. Read if you want but I may add or delete some of it.

Wednesday night, Nov 19th.
Birthright ended, goodbyes were rushed as people went off to different directions.

I went with Maxi (our 60 something year old guide) and Eitan, a fellow Birthrighter, on a train towards Tel Aviv. We were all headed in different directions.

I went to my Dad's friend Melissa's house in the suburbs and stayed there for the next four nights, where I spent most of the time typing my essay. I swam in the Mediterranean, ran barefoot on the beach, and played with her kids. Thank you for letting me stay and use your computer Melissa!

Sunday, Nov 23, went to Jerusalem to see my third cousin Lev, his parents, wife Steph and newborn daughter Meira. We had dinner at a nice restaurant and then I stayed at the Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem, which is apparently one of the best hostels in the world. Not bad for my first hostel. I highly recommend it. Just don't make the same mistake I did of taking someone's bed on accident (it was early enough I found a new bed and nothing problematic happened). I met some Germans who visited the Holocaust musuem here and asked them if it was too depressing for them, to which they said they responded that they grew up with it and so are used to it.

Hostels being too expensive for someone trying to travel without using money, I found a guy from someone at Abraham Hostel who was open to hosting travelers. Thanks Achia! He has cool story himself, having ran away from his ultra orthodox family as a teen, slept on the streets, and has found his way to a living with a few jobs and apartment in Jerusalem. Over hummus and arak, with a friend of his visiting, we hung out at his place and watched Friends.

Next night I used CouchSurfing to find Avrum, an Australian-Israeli building his own hostel but is letting couchsurfers stay too. Thanks Avrum! I stayed Tue night through Thursday, and met a bunch of cool people. A Norwegian journeyman who rambled about conspiracy theories but is pretty fun to talk to anyway, a British electrician who's helping to wire the house in exchange for living there, a Thai cook who's also doing some sort of helping children here (I think?), American biologists spreading awareness of secret engineered viruses that control the population (I'm skeptical, but ask me if you want to see the abstract), and an American journalist tracking the story of a new director of an Israel-Palestine struggle activist organization.

Thursday evening through Monday morning I stayed with my cousins, and went with them to friends of theirs for Thanksgiving, which was more of a party for the hell of it with lots of desserts and no turkey. Met some cool people there who invited me to an All That's Left (activist organization opposed to the Israeli occupation of Palestine) meeting in Tel Aviv, Thurs Dec 4th. Thank you Lev, Steph, and Meira!

Up until last night when she had to fly home to Montana, Lindsey, my friend from Birthright, was in Jerusalem for a few days with me. We wandered inside the Old City, visited the Israel Musuem where the Dead Sea Scrolls are kept, toured to the Dome of the Rock, went to Shabbat dinner with my cousins, spontaneously ran into our Birthright friend Ben, had lunch with our Birthright medic and guard Yosef who lives in Jerusalem, and spent tons of time in the market, which was a great people watching and good food eating experience. It was great spending time with you, thanks for the being here!

I'm now back at Avrum's place. I had emailed him asking if I could come back. He gave a long response that I thought meant yes. Turns out it was just a question. And I assumed yes. When I showed up he got mad and asked why did I come back without his permission. We settled it though. And I can work here in exchange for staying.

Ok I think that's good for now. Typing this with my thumbs on my iPhone with wifi can only get so eloquent. Please pardon my butchered grammar.  I can add more later. See my pics on Facebook! I upload each night I take pics.

Oh yeah. I need to blog about my past six months of travel. and thank everyone that was involved in that. Next time on Michael's blog!

Edit: Forgot to mention that on my way from my cousin Lev's and back to Avrum's hostel for the second time, I walked by the Israel President's house just to check it out as I was curious. I think they had asked me in Hebrew to stop so they could question me but since I couldn't understand it and didn't realize they were talking to me I kept going. Eventually they caught up and yelled at me, so I turned and said I didn't know much Hebrew. The guard asked for my passport, and had me walk back up closer to the House to question me for maybe 20 minutes. They said my big backpack looked suspicious, so I opened it up and showed them the inside. Since I told them I was visiting my cousin they needed his information to confirm what I said, so they called him up and chatted a bit.