Politeness works fine with many people in many circustances, and it has bought me out of a few pinches. I've seen a cop's face go from suspicious anger to placidity from a smooth handling of their concerns. I'd wager that most of the time, politeness won't hurt and sometimes it will help. Sometimes though you're right, particularly with law enforcement, if someone is in a bad mood and on a power trip it will not make one iota of difference. What I took from this is to pay attention, there's no need to consistently clam up like this guy does, but remember it's an option because sometimes it may be necessary.
"absolutely subservient to the whims of authority"
That's reading an awful lot into what I wrote. By the author's own language he appears to bear a grudge against the CBP, so while he sounds polite by his own account he clearly goes out of his way to prove a (valid) point. I don't really see a problem with, most of the time, answering that I was on a business trip and packed my own bags, nor should most people in a "polite society". I don't see how this is being subservient to anyone. Wouldn't a better policy be to assume no problem and only raise the issue if they raise it first? It's healthy for society to have people push back against the system but it's also in our best interest, overall, to have security and part of that security is making judgments based on how someone responds to simple questions.
>>“Why were you in China?” asked the passport control officer, a woman with the appearance and disposition of a prison matron.
>>“None of your business,” I said.
That's not being polite. Being polite would be to say "Just visiting for fun".
It sounds like he didn't want to get through passport control.
Much of life is about jumping through silly arbitrary hoops to get what you want. In the case of getting through customs+immigration, you just keep quiet, don't cause a fuss, and tell them what they'd like to hear.
The statement was not a polite version of the original. It offered additional information.
You may not see any problems with it, nor agree with the article's assertions. That is your choice. Equally the "dick" is allowed to tell them it is none of their business - though I think my (slightly more) polite version would be better.
The security theater was introduced after 9/11, for whatever real reason, and I think it would be really difficult to find evidence of the public actually asking for it. It's strange you claimed it did.
It's pretty difficult to believe it makes anyone feel safer, and if it does, it's comparable to believing in "change you can believe in".
I think a lot of the discussion here is boiling down to this statement in particular. Maybe you don't interpret "None of your business" as impolite, but when I hear it, it's usually a snippy reply to someone being too nosy. It's actually difficult for me to imagine this line being delivered in such a way that I _wouldn't_ interpret as being rude or aggressive.