"I can't understand by what authority the government
is holding you here," Alex told Thomas in the visiting room
of Pentonville Prison.
"Could be illegal," Thomas opined.
"If you like, I'll send some letters off to a few
MP's who might look into the matter."
Thomas had no objection.
Coincidentally, perhaps, several days later the door of
his cell opened. "You're for the outs," the turnkey
Thomas was led through the release process, into a car
with three prison officers, and driven back to Heathrow.
At the desk where tickets were checked Thomas told the
ticket checker that he had no desire to board the assigned flight.
"He's with us," one of the officers said, flashing
an I.D. card under the checker's nose. They hustled Thomas through
"I refuse to enter this plane, and if forced to do
so I will not be held responsible for my actions," Thomas
informed the steward checking tickets at the door of the BOAC
"He's with us," one of the officers said, flashing
his I.D. to the steward. Thomas was whisked onto the plane and
into a seat, with a prison officer taking a seat on each side
During the flight across the Atlantic a friendly rapport
was established as Thomas regaled his captors with tales of adventure
in foreign lands.
"Doesn't it seem rather strange," he asked, "that
I want to travel to the east, yet the two world governments which
profess the greatest love of freedom are using force of arms to
make me travel to the west?"
"It does seem rather strange," one officer assented.
"I really can't fathom it. Nothing personal, you understand,
I'm just doing me job."
At JFK airport in New York the BOAC liner taxied to a stop
at the terminal, and all the passengers, except Thomas and his
"Well, Mr. Thomas we're here. It's time to get off,"
an officer said hopefully.
"Right from the beginning I've told you that I didn't
want to come here. I have no intention of getting off this plane."
British authorities on American soil had no legal jurisdiction
to use force against Thomas, and they appeared somewhat puzzled.
One of them disappeared, returning moments later with the captain
of the aircraft.
"Good afternoon, sir. What is it? Why haven't you
left the plane?"
"As I explained to these gentlemen, and anyone else
who would listen before we left England, I had a specific destination.
I was traveling east. Now I've been taken four thousand miles
out of my way, across a very large body of water, and I just want
to be back where I was before the British government interfered
with what I was doing."
The captain turned to the prison officer. "That sounds
perfectly reasonable to me. I don't see why he should get off
the plane." He turned and left the plane.
Again one of the prison officers left. This time he returned
with a contingent of airport security police.
"Why don't ya wanna get off, buddy?" one burly
security officer asked. "This is a nice country. We've got
Disneyland here and everything."
"Don't take it personally," Thomas suggested.
"It's nothing against you or your country. I just had my
own agenda. There was a certain place that I wanted to be, and
this isn't it."
"I don't know nuttin' about dat, but you're getting
the fuck offa dis plane," the New Yorker said, without good
Airport officers grabbed Thomas under either arm. He was
dragged from the plane and propelled to an immigration counter,
where Thomas, surrounded by a large contingent of security officers,
told the female immigration official on duty that he did not want
to enter the country. Oblivious, the official began firing questions
"When were you born?"
"What's your mother's maiden name?"
"Is that the only word you know, 'Why'?" asked
the immigration official.
"No, I know lots of words. But I'm not in the habit
of answering unreasonable questions. So, unless you can give me
some reason for wanting to know the answer to these questions,
I might decide not to answer them."
Her patience seemed to be wearing thin as the immigration
official slapped a card on the counter in front of him. "You
want to sign this?"
Printed on the card was a statement:
"I realize that, since I do not have a United States
passport, I cannot be allowed to enter the United States without
paying $50.00 to the U.S. State Department."
"I don't think you understand what I've been saying
to you. I have absolutely no desire to enter your country. Certainly
I'm not going to sign this card."
The official snatched the card and began waving it wildly
above her head. "Get him out of here. Get him out of here,"
she yelled. The contingent of security personnel shoved Thomas
through customs, pushed him through a door, and one of them said,
"You're in the United States. You're free to go where you
Thomas regained his balance. He walked back to the line
of security officers, each holding a billy club in front of him.
"Do you realize that you just forced me to enter this country
against my will?" He asked.
"We didn't do nothin' like that." Said the same
officer who had mentioned Disneyland.
For an instant he wondered if he had entered the Twilight
Zone. Here he was, a harmless pilgrim headed for the Holy Land,
kidnapped through a conspiracy of agents from the world's leading
bastions of liberty, and held prisoner in the Land of the Free.
Confronted by a wall of heavily armed police, the only
obstacle between him and the Holy Land, Hellanback thought that
he might be experiencing a revelation. Here's a gang of freedom
loving thugs. What makes them any different than the gang of Commie
thugs who would perform the same function if Hellanback were trying
to exercise freedom of movement at the Moscow International Airport?
What's the difference? With the proper papers any government
allows you to move wherever you want to move. If you don't have
the papers, you stay where the government puts you.
Is it realistic to accept freedom as a condition dependant
on money, national boundaries, and ideological constructs? Is
it sane to believe in a "freedom" which imprisons?