Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Planes, Porn and Prestidigitatory Passenger Searches

I love alliteration, what can I say?

Time was in this country when if you wanted an "enhanced pat-down", there was naught for it but $25 dollars and a shadowy venue on a side street. Now, it's the cost of a plane ticket, some obstinacy, a well-lit room, and an underpaid federal goon of the same sex. [I might digress here into how I can't reconcile this latter requirement with our Cultural Overlords' ever-engaged project of eliminating gender difference and identity. Perhaps soon an amended procedure will include a coin-toss as some point....]

Yes, I'm on about the recent media kerfuffle about the TSA's sexy new procedures. The "hand-sliding" methodology of the new technique has some passengers crying foul. As if naked body imaging weren't a privacy violation enough.

Now, on the surface of it, this is just another personal liberties hysteria, isn't it? I mean, we all want to be safe, don't we? We should all be expected to pay some price for our liberty.

Perhaps it's because I savor satire, but I must concede to appreciating a sort of irony in this whole situation. Because, back in the days of the Patriot Act, it seems that much of the same crowd that is now so up-in-arms was making just that argument that they're now rejecting as lunacy. And part of the argumentative strain, that this kind of search shouldn't be allowed without suspicion, of course begs the question of what engenders such suspicion. I can't help but wonder if, for many of these folks, that question isn't too easy to answer...

Nevertheless, the current protests have plenty of good arguments to go on. And I'm sure among the protesters are many who, like myself, have consistently rejected the whole mania of "added security measures" our country has been putting in place for fear that they might lead to profiling or, well, things like this.

The best arguments are just common sense. A recent editorialist in The Guardian put it nicely:
Listen to this: "My freely chosen bedmates and doctors are the only ones allowed to see my naked body or touch my genitalia." For a sane person in a sane country that's the ultimate in "no shit, Sherlock" statement. But not where I live.

Not the United States of America.
I would wholeheartedly agree if "freely chosen bedmates" were switched to the more sane "spouse," but for the time being I'll give due credit to the sanity which is there, rather than fixate upon the (significant) bit which is lacking.

The canard of "protection" that keeps getting trotted out is a laughable attempt at justification. What the above author calls "pointlessly superstitious security theatre," I call a childish sleight-of-hand - so much smoke and mirrors. If it comes right down to it, I'd rather take my chances with less draconian measures which leave the off-chance of a violation of my safety rather than the sure violation of my privacy which the current measures represent. I feel not at all assured that these new measures will likely ensnare a determined terrorist; rather, I see the likelihood of their being abuses as a much more real exigency. But these are trusted government employees! They're screened and undergo psychological batteries! Yes, like the military personnel at Abu Ghraib? Or - to anticipate the insensitive smart ass who would seek to strike the low blow against my argument - what about the priest pedophiles who abused children? It doesn't deflate my point - it proves it: screening processes fail. And I'll gladly admit that the problem in the Church evinces a similar social phenomenon as that in the military, i.e. that bureaucratic structures can easily become breeding grounds for corruption without the necessary balances of transparency and accountability - and virtue. (I also would add, though it is not essential to my point: at least with the Church the scandal stands against real motives of credibility that urge me to keep trusting Her divine constitution in spite of human failures; where are the proofs that would impel me to a similar fealty toward the government, I ask?)

It is simply too great a price to pay for liberty to subject to pornographic exploitation and what would, in any other context, more than meet the base definition of sexual harassment.

But, what else can they do? I mean, they have to do something! They can't just do nothing! Yes. Yes they can. I'm not being insensitive to the tragedy and travesty of 9/11 in saying this. But we're not honoring those folks' memories who were murdered that day by invading people's personal space in this way; actually, we're dishonoring them. We're giving those who would attack us a small victory in allowing one more invasion into the life we love.

Yes, we have a right to feel safe and to not have to fear when we travel, or simply when we get out of bed to go to work in the morning. The attack in 2001 violated this right and shook us into the understanding that we weren't so safe as we supposed. We have something to fear, it is true. It is not entirely irrelevant (and not the least irreverent, to my mind) to point out that we now can have some solidarity with the people who live, say, in Israel or in Iraq. Yes, we deserve better than to have to fear - so do they. But we're robbed of that, as they are. It sucks, no bones about it. But some factors are simply beyond our control: we only have certain choices left to us. And it is those choices about which we must be careful and considerate. It seems we're destined, at least for a time, to live in fear - it's not an unknown condition for a people. But I would much rather live in fear of a wily and unscrupulous (but thankfully limitedly capable) enemy than to live in fear of my own government...

Wouldn't you?
Post a Comment