Few issues have me willing to jump into the fray as much as does our most recent, terrorist-imposed incremental forfeiture of privacy. I’ve heard many of the justifications, ranging from claims such as "today’s youth have no expectation of privacy," to "privacy is an illusion anyway," to "better this than to be blown out of the sky." In my opinion, all of these arguments are nonsense. They may reflect a certain amount of reality, or they may suggest an accurate prediction of the future, but I really believe arguments in favor of further invasions of privacy and personal liberties will only lead to a different kind of disaster.
As the current issue regarding the "enhanced pat-down" procedures and the use of the "naked body scanners" catches fire, I have been cruising all of the media outlets in an effort to find solace in an even, measured argument in favor of what is sure to be the new normal. I have yet to hear any response that does not play on our fear. This is wrong. When one manipulates another through fear, seeks to gain control and manipulate, humiliate and degrade another, we call that abuse. Or, we call it slavery. Or, we call it oppression. In just about any other context, we think of this type of exerting our will over another person as abhorrent. Yet, we permit it in this case, because the consequences of doing nothing seem far more extreme. No one wants to be on the plane that is carrying 249 souls and one inhuman monster. But we are allowing our fear to cloud our judgement. We have ceased to think clearly.
For example, would someone please answer the question: What is going to happen when the terrorists exploit yet another weakness they will surely find? then what? Right now, I read we are exempting children under the age of 12 from the full body screening. Oh? So, then what is going to happen the first time the terrorists use a child to blow up a plane?
So, once children are included, are we going to exclude anyone else? No one has really addressed the issue of pregnant women and these body scanners. I’ve read as many articles written by experts who claim there is no danger of ill effects as a result of radiation or electro-magnetic exposure as I’ve read articles written by experts who claim there is. Someone said to me, "Any pregnant woman with good sense would opt out of the body
scanner, but what about the women who don’t know yet that they are pregnant?"
So…what are we going to do the first time a "pregnant" woman blows up a plane?
Again, no one has been able to answer the question about other types of exemptions from this procedure. Is a well-known celebrity actually going to permit a stranger to view them through a full body scanner? No one is guaranteeing that these videos will not eventually surface on the Internet. I’d be willing to bet it will happen sooner rather than later. Okay, so let’s say the celebrity opts-out. are they really going to subject themselves to an "enhanced pat-down" by some stranger who can’t wait to tell his buddies he got a good feel of the latest "it" girl or sex symbol?
If you are the father of a fifteen-year-old girl, do you get to choose for your child either the pat-down or body scanner? What if your choice is not the choice of your daughter? What if your choice traumatizes her? What of people who have been victims of sexual assault in the past, or violent crime? what if the enhanced pat-down is traumatic to the degree that the process is psychologically damaging?
Who is accountable for the inevitable claims of sexual assault, pat-downs gone awry, misinterpretations of intent or attitude? You will be unable to prove in a court of law that a security agent was not leering at you lasciviously, enjoying their job a little too much, feeling powerful in the face of your humiliation, or simply being rough or rude.
As a person who is blind, I can be easily deceived. how do I know that I have not been walked through the body scanner, while being told I walked through the regular metal detector? How would I know if in fact I had been taken to a private area for the enhanced pat-down? How would I know, unless the person actually spoke to me, if the screener was male or female? I have no way to know what is happening around me, who is witnessing the procedure, who is an airport TSA or not.
What about those people who are unable to give consent? what if they are unable to choose? People who travel are from all walks of life. What about people with intellectual disabilities? What of seniors or persons who have compromised cognitive function, stroke victims, or those who are simply uninformed about the extent to which these searches may be invasive?
I doubt anyone at Homeland Security would appreciate an accusation that they have acted first, and without thought, to the current air travel security climate. If they are doing their job, let’s hope they have done little else other than to think about it. Yet again, I must raise the question of ultimate end: If Janet Napolitano’s admonishment were taken to heart by all Americans, and we en masse decided to no longer fly, then what? We would go through this all over again in another venue. Trains, buses, shopping centers. Yes, I know, there have been no other airline hijackings or attacks on American soil since September 11, 2001. I’m not saying they are doing a terrible job of protecting us. I’m saying that it seems that we lack a fundamental understanding of the problem. We are applying band-aids to a levy breach. If we take the human element out of security, we will remain at a disadvantage. That is their will. If they cannot accomplish their goal with overt violence, they’ll retool and use some other, more insidious means. The terrorists have been trying to tell us that it matters not who is in office, which party, what security measures we undertake, or how much time must pass. They intend us harm, in whatever way they are able to succeed. Are we really hearing that message?
At some point, we know not when, we will have exhausted every technical means we can dream up in defense of our well-being. Yet there will likely be an act of terror that will harm us. Even the most hyper-vigilant, protective and caring parents can turn their back for a split second, resulting in harm to a child. It’s horrible, but it happens. I presume the parent loves the child far more than our government cares about any of its citizens. However, no one wants to make the mistake of raising a child so traumatized by smothering control, micro-management, and restriction to the point of near imprisonment that he or she becomes an utterly dysfunctional adult, incapable of independence. Yet, that seems to be where we may be headed as a nation. If we are really so concerned about our safety, perhaps it’s time to rely less on expedient solutions like full body scanners, and more on that uniquely human ability for critical reasoning and independent thought.
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