painting by Alex Schaeffer
So I recently booked a flight to report a story for a magazine that uses American Express Travel Services, and, as these things usually go, I received numerous emails from the latter to confirm my intinerary and to confirm the confirmation of my itinerary and the confirmation of the confirmation and so on, but this time I also received an email I’d never received before: a personalized threat assessment document. I will be traveling between Mexico and the United States, so my advisory included a “Warning Alert” on what still gets called “drug-related violence” with a state-by-state breakdown listing “areas of concern,” “major criminal organizations,” and a narc’s-eye-view of the local power grid. (For Tamaulipas: “Los Zetas' control has weakened somewhat in the state, causing violent confrontations with rival groups who are vying for control of territories in the area.”) That section was preceded by an alert devoted to another potentially disruptive force, the “YoSoy132 student activist groups,” members of which, “call for peaceful protests and have said they do not wish to block roads or cause significant disruptions. … Organizers of the YoSoy132 movement maintain their commitment to non-violent protest. However, low-level clashes with police cannot be ruled out.” (Maybe I read that wrong, but it sounds like the problem is the cops, right?)
But the really good part came in the Warning Alert for the US, which made me a little bit nostalgic, and a little proud. Sure, it felt worse than dated, but the anxiety was real. “Police in most large US cities with a significant Occupy Wall Street presence have dismantled camps at public locations,” it began, reassuringly, but continued: “as a result, the Occupy movement has considered alternative methods of protest in what organizers have dubbed ‘Occupy 2.0.’” New tactics might include, “‘Occupying’ foreclosed homes or vacant buildings” and “Demonstrating at political rallies and fundraisers, corporate events or shareholder meetings.” Scary stuff. And this is the good bit: Travelers were warned to “avoid all protests” (presumably clash-prone police might also show) and to “use caution around corporate headquarters, brokerage houses, banks, Federal Reserve Banks, and other financial institutions,” the latter being a rule I have followed for some time.