Shortly before his three months in Her Majesty's Prison
Longport, Canterbury, were due to expire, the British government
announced its intention to deport him to the United States. Along
with the announcement Thomas received a short form in the mail
to be filled out if he wished to contest the destination of his
Thomas filled in the form, objecting to deportation for
the reason that, (1) "the United States is west; when my
journey was interrupted I had been traveling east; as a free man
I determine in which direction I will travel," and on the
grounds that, (2) "I am not an American citizen, and Great
Britain has no legal authority to deport people who are not American
citizens to the United States."
After his three-month sentence expired Thomas was detained
in the same prison an additional three months awaiting a hearing
on his immigration appeal.
Finally one morning Thomas was taken to a hearing room
in Dover. Three officials from the British Home Office were seated
at the opposition table. Thomas was given a written statement
in which the British Home Office explained that "it is the
normal practice to order an individual's deportation to the country
of which he is a national, or which most recently issued him a
"Good morning, everyone," said Adjudicator Colby,
taking the bench. "Mr. Thomas, I believe that you have been
provided with a copy of the statement from the Home Office?"
"Well then, I think that the government's position
is clearly set forth therein, so why don't we just begin with
your telling us where you take exception to the position of the
"All right. In the first paragraph ...."
"No, no, Mr. Thomas. The first paragraph doesn't have
anything to do with our inquiry here."
"But it contains several material inaccuracies."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Thomas. All we are concerned about
here is the destination of your deportation."
"I'll go on to the second paragraph ..."
"No, no, the second paragraph has nothing to do with
"In that case, can we at least agree there is a difference
between normal practice and the law?"
"Certainly, Mr. Thomas, we would all agree to that."
"And might we also agree that frequently normal practice
has been used as an excuse to do illegal and immoral things."
"I don't think anyone would argue with that."
"Then let's go down to the last paragraph, and let
me ask you whether it is only, as it says here, 'the normal practice'
to deport a person to the country which last issued him a travel
document. Because if it is merely the 'normal practice' then there
are no legal grounds to deport me to the United States."
"That is the law," Mr. Colby said.
"Just for the record would you read the statute from
the book?" asked Thomas, who had read it and knew the statute
only provided that a person be "removed to the country of
which he is a national."
The Adjudicator checked his law book, closed it slowly,
silently, and thought for a minute as he gathered his papers.
"If the Secretary of the British Home Office says that you
are an American citizen, I see no reason not to deport you to
the United States." The Adjudicator snatched up his papers,
abruptly left the bench, and headed for the door.
"Wait a minute," Thomas bellowed. "Do you
realize what you just said?"
The Adjudicator looked uncertain. "Uh, I think so,"
"I doubt it. If the Secretary of the British Home
Office can decide what I am then I am not a free man but a slave
to the Secretary."
The Adjudicator, not an unsympathetic soul by human standards,
looked dumbfounded. After a wordless hesitation, he turned and
hurriedly left the room. Immediately after the Adjudicator's exit
two police officers escorted Thomas from the room and back to
Thomas remained in jail another two months before five
British police officials eventually attempted to execute the Adjudicator's
decision. Leaving Her Majesty's Prison at Longport, they drove
to London. They stopped at the United States embassy on Grosvener
Square in London. One policeman ran inside and quickly returned
to the car carrying a sealed envelope. They proceeded to Heathrow
"Have a drink on of Her Majesty's government."
one policeman said, tucking a five pound note into Thomas' shirt
pocket. Another policeman handed him the blanket he had been carrying
when he was arrested in Dover.
A policeman handed the embassy envelope to a steward with
instructions that it be delivered to U.S. Immigration officials
on the other side of the Atlantic, and bundled Thomas onto a plane
bound for New York.
Thomas put his blanket in the overhead luggage rack and
walked through the plane to the rear galley area, where a stewardess
was preparing the in-flight snacks. Turning the wheel on the emergency
exit, he pushed the hatch open.
"Cheerio," he said to the stewardess, who looked
at him calmly. He stepped out the door, dropped about twenty feet
to the tarmac, and looked back upward to see the stewardess matter-
of-factly pull the hatch closed.
Thomas walked toward a terminal building as if he knew
where he was going. Once inside he saw a doorway under a sign,
"Authorized Personnel Only." He passed through the doorway
as if he were supposed to. Walking down a glass-walled walkway,
Thomas saw his five police escorts, still standing in front of
the plane he had just exited to make sure he didn't get off.
Hurrying on, Thomas made his way to the Underground train,
and, out of Her Majesty's five quid, bought a ticket to liberty
in Piccadilly Circus.
Thomas was beginning to question his sanity more intensely
He hid out in a squat, occupied by some friends he had
met in Hyde Park, on Barnsbury Road in London. For a couple of
months he didn't leave the house. Hour after hour, day after day,
he pecked away on an antique typewriter, detailing the road which
had led to his present situation. He hoped that by reducing his
experience to paper, as accurately as possible, he might discover
where his thinking had gone awry.
Some months later, on the first anniversary of his statelessness,
the London Times carried a front-page story about Jimmy Carter's
pique at Margaret Thatcher's refusal to make financial sanctions
against Iran retroactive. Thomas went to the U.S. Embassy to request
formal recognition of his statelessness. When the consul, one
Max Robinson, refused to officially sanction nation less status,
Thomas asked, "Is there any law that says I must remain a
"No," Mr. Robinson replied.
"Is there any law saying I can't throw my passport
"Is there any law that would allow you to force me
to enter the United States against my will?"
"We can't legally do that." He stressed the word
"Okay. The British say I'm a U.S. citizen. They want
me on U.S. soil. This is U.S. soil, so I'm just going to stay
here until you officially declare that I am not a U.S. citizen,
at which time I will gladly leave your embassy."
"I can't allow that," Mr. Robinson confided,
and called several marine guards, who carried Thomas out of the
embassy and held his arms until a couple of London bobbies arrived
to take him into custody.
"What are we arresting you for?" one of them
"I've done nothing wrong. Unless you have some reason
for arresting me, I would suggest that you release me."
But they radioed headquarters.
"The American Embassy says he's for deportation to
the United States," the radio said.
"There are some folks down at the Home Office who
would really like to know how you got back into the country. They
think security is l00% effective," a Home Office man said.
"I'll tell you what. I think your system stinks, and
I'm not going to do anything that will make it function any more
"I'm very sorry to hear that. You'll probably just
have to stay in jail until you tell us."
He did spend some months in solitary confinement at HMP
Pentonville. Once a week the prison chaplain made a perfunctory
visit to the solitary block. Once the chaplain brought a seminarian
along with him. Bob, the seminarian, got a kick out of talking
to Thomas, and for a week visited him every day.
"I wanted to do something that would be of service
to humanity," Bob explained his entry to the seminary.
"How does this place help humanity?" Thomas asked.
"Do you think I've done something that justifies my being
"Not you, but there are others here who need to be
here for the sake of society's safety."
"I think you've got it wrong. I'm not the only person
who doesn't need to be here for society's welfare. But the fact
that I am here proves that the system is doing at least some things
that aren't right."
"The system isn't perfect, but it's the best we have."
"That's one way of looking at it. But what if the
solution to society's problems is merely a valid set of values?"
"Of course, values are important."
"And society's are largely illusory. First society
believes in money. Wouldn't you agree that a society based on
a standard of money would be much different from one which holds
human life to be the standard by which value is judged?"
"And a society which established truth as the criterion
for communication would be much different from one which communicates
on a basis of political or commercial expediencies?"
"It's written in the Bible that the truth shall set
you free. I suppose it is common knowledge that politicians and
salesmen don't always tell the truth."
"Should we assume that God created an imperfect Earth?"
"I agree. It seems as if everything works precisely
and in harmony. Rain falls, plants grow, water evaporates, and
"The power which holds the stars in place," Bob
"Right. So the Earth is perfect, but the world is
notably imperfect. People are starving to death, not because the
Earth does not produce enough food to feed the people but because
people cause problems which result in other people starving, not
because there isn't food, but because some people don't have the
money to buy the food. And there are wars. Not to add to the perfection
of the Earth, but aiming to strengthen the interests of the political
and economic theories surging within the imaginary lines that
ideologies trace on maps."
"I'm not sure I understand you."
"Take 'capitalism,' a system of economic theory controlled
by an established political hierarchy the jurisdiction of which
is defined by lines superimposed on the face of the Earth. Take
'communism,' a similar situation which is also defined by imaginary
lines. So we have imaginary lines which make the United States
and imaginary lines which make the Soviet Union, and we have nuclear
arsenals produced by both sides for no reason except to protect
the sanctity of those imaginary lines."
"So you are saying that there are war and starvation
and poverty because human societies are based on illusory values?"
"Exactly. Rather than life-giving spiritual values
-- truth, justice, equality, freedom -- humanity has dedicated
its societies to life-taking material values: money and vanity."
"And you are suggesting because I am working within
society that what I'm doing does not benefit humanity?"
"More than that. I'm suggesting that by working for
society you strengthen its false values and actually harm humanity.
You say you don't think I belong in jail, but you're paying taxes
to make it possible. In order to make enough money to pay your
taxes, you're figuring on getting a job that will pay you to come
in here and give me spiritual guidence. You say you believe in
a God of Love, yet you help support Her Majesty's nuclear arsenal.
You say you value life, yet your work helps to construct."
Bob looked pensive. "How do I know that anything is
true? How do I know that I'm not imagining everything? How do
I know that I'm not just imagining this conversation?"
Enraged, Thomas yelled, "You're wasting my time!!!
Get out of here!!!"
Bob looked stunned.
"I don't want to deal with nonsense. Get out!!"
Quickly, Bob jumped to the door and yelled for the turnkey.
He didn't say goodbye.
Thomas was miserable. How could he have started screaming
Well, hell, he'd spent many hours in discussion with Bob
... practicing reason and logic. Now he lays out -- what seems
to him, anyway -- a perfectly logical premise, and Bob comes up
with some kind of "If a Tree Falls in the Woods" kind
of argument. Gross intellectual dishonesty! A waste of time!
But, Thomas is professing peace, and he wasn't very peaceful.
"Gimme a break. How can you be peaceful around nonsense?"
Thomas argued with himself. "I'm seriously trying to make
some sense out of life; this guy's getting paid to coach people
on the sense of life; and all he can say is: 'Prove that I'm not
"Maybe Bob saw your ideas as a threat to his way of
life. Remember, he has a wife and children." Thomas reasoned
"Yeah, but this character says he believes in God.
If there's a God, and Bob is imagining Reality then Bob's God."
"Bob might honestly believe in God, but he probably
has some doubts. Nothing wrong with being skeptical, is there?"
"I guess not." Doubting Thomas grudgingly admitted.
"If you were really trying to be logical ... if you
really cared about Bob ... if Bob's question to you is: 'Prove
to me that there's a God,' then, logically, wouldn't you try to
articulate the requested proof?"
"Yeah, right ... I'll just articulate a logical proof
that he's not imagining me."
"He'll just tell me he's imagining it."
"If you can make him think, maybe his faith will be
strengthened. If you cared about him, wouldn't that be a good
thing to do?"
"Well I've already got a lot of time invested in this.
I suppose it wouldn't hurt to try."
Thomas thought that syllogisms would be the way to go.