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Erna Mahyuni

Erna tweets too much on @ernamh. Angry Sabah native, slave to her dog/cat and blogs at ernamahyuni.com

MARCH 1 — There are very few things that frighten me; one of them is stairs and another is the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Overseas junkets were pretty common in my days of tech journalism and while some of my colleagues loved getting invites to the US, I would give them a pass.

I love planes and airports, but going through immigration is something I find very stressful. Singapore immigration once searched my baggage and held me back, thinking I was on drugs -- just because I was tired and hadn't been sleeping well. A huge weight gain and a new hairstyle saw me stopped at Thai immigration because I looked so different from the skinny dour girl in my passsport.

Profiling in immigration checks is deemed a necessary evil, but too often it has been used as a tool to oppress and intimidate. The US TSA has been deemed as an example when you pair too much power with too little training. Case in point: what happened to beloved Australian children's book author Mem Fox.

Fox was pulled out of an immigration queue in LA, and accused of working in the US without the proper visa. All because she was receiving an honorarium for delivering a keynote at a conference, as well as having her expenses paid. She was kept in a holding room for an hour and 40 minutes, and later interrogated for 15 minutes.

Detailing her experience in The Guardian, she said: "I kept thinking that if this were happening to me, a person who is white, articulate, educated and fluent in English, what on earth is happening to people who don’t have my power?"

Fox found the experience so harrowing she was weeping in her sleep. And yet, she said what she saw happening to other detainees in the holding room was far worse.

Of all people, you would think Fox would be safe from scrutiny. After all, she was a senior citizen of Caucasian descent. A little old, white lady, she should be safe, right?

Not in Trump's America.

The shutting of doors. The building of walls. The growing tyranny of little Napoleons. The 21st century is seeing the resurgence of the far-right's influence and everyone else should be rightfully terrified.

Yet, while Fox isn't likely to visit the US again anytime soon, her experience has made her realise that now, more than ever, people need to speak up. Fox wrote, "If we don’t stand up and shout, good sense and good will not prevail, and my voice will be one of the loudest."

I think it's high time we realise there comes a time when shouting is necessary... except maybe not when the TSA is within earshot. Otherwise, like Fox said, it's time for more of us to shout.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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