Would You Let This Man Into Your Country?

David Ruben Piqtoukun is a master carver from Canada.

For the second year in a row, he is to be the featured artist at Sivertson’s annual Inuit Art Premiere. We had the pleasure of meeting him last year (when this photo was taken) and were eager to see what new work he had completed since that time. He is a wonderful carver and a lovely person.

But he isn’t here this year. He was denied entrance and turned away at the US border.

So, you ask, what awful thing did he do during the past year that led to his not being allowed back into the United States? Nothing. In order to ensure our safety, US border officials decided to keep digging into his history until they found something that could be used to deny him entry. It doesn’t matter that he is a well-known and successful artist who has visited the US in the past, proved to be a model visitor and enriched the lives of those of us on this side of the border; there is some long-forgotten incident, mistake, or error that –having now been discovered – over-rides everything else he has done in the intervening years.

Based on the number of artists who’ve experienced this, it would be easy to conclude that the US government simply hates foreign artists and is focused on protecting Americans from their evil influence. However, I actually think it is part of a bigger and far more insidious problem.

The US seems to be developing a culture where technical details – often relatively meaningless details – are given credence over purpose, meaning, and common sense. WHAT we are trying to accomplish (in this case, preventing dangerous people from entering our country) is lost in technical details (youthful indiscretion, misunderstanding, disagreements over the application of rules, possibly even errors in recordkeeping) that are irrelevant to or even in conflict with the purpose for which they were enacted. In the process, we are wasting money and denying our nation opportunities to engage with the rest of the world. This makes us a less informed, less aware, and less creative nation.

I fear I live in a nation that has lost sight of the very purpose and the reason for its laws – a nation without direction or common sense, a nation rapidly losing touch with the rest of the world.

No wonder I’m so drawn to travel and the opportunities it offers to meet the world face-to-face. 

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