I got into a debate on Facebook last night about the new security measures in place at airports in the US. It started when one guy, Cowboy, posted to his wall that he had one thing to say to all the people posting articles and complaining about the new security measures: “don’t fly.” He said this is being done to protect us from terrorism, and as long as he gets a pat down from “a hot female with TSA,” he’s okay with it.
Both sides weighed in on this, and it was, for the most part, a cordial discussion. I was actually quite surprised that no one started hurling insults. Both sides stated their opinion and made points, and argued against the other side’s points. There was only one issue, I think.
I don’t think most people who were arguing for scanners and enhanced pat downs had any idea what they were talking about. I will admit, when this was first instituted, there was an email discussion amongst several friends. Two were very unthrilled with the new security measures, and one who went through the scanner said she “felt dirty.” (I hope I’m quoting her correctly!) My opinion, at the time, was, “Eh. Whatever.” I wasn’t happy with it, but I didn’t really see the big deal. However, since then, I’ve read more about them, done some research, and read firsthand accounts of the “enhanced” pat downs. And now I can say, with full sincerity, that I am not okay with this, and I am not looking forward to the next time I have to fly (Christmas). In fact, I’m starting to get a little sick about it – not quite to the extent that Nicole is, but talk to me again as the date gets closer.
Here are the main points brought up in the FB debate:
- I’m okay with it, as long as it’s a hot dude/chick doing the pat down. Argument: It will be someone of the same gender. More than likely, it will be a not-very-attractive-member of the same gender (no offense to the Hot TSA Agents out there, but statistically…)
- How exactly does this erode our personal freedom? Argument: If we allow this, what are we going to allow next? I don’t want a stranger seeing me without me clothes on, or running their fingers along my panty line, between my legs (or touching my “junk”). That is reserved for my significant other, not a stranger.
- They’re not actually groping you, it’s not that bad. Argument: I’ve read first hand accounts about how shaken up people, especially women, have been over this. “I stood there, an American citizen, a mom traveling with a baby with special needs formula, sexually assaulted by a government official. I began shaking and felt completely violated, abused and assaulted by the TSA agent.” “I made a decision on November 4th as a professional pilot that safety of flight could be compromised as a result of being physically violated by TSA today and as a result I would be overstressed and fatigued for my flight to BOM. TSA is now affecting my livelihood.” “Being 17 she had no idea what that [pat down] meant and how intense a full detailed full body pat down can be. Even when she began to cry, the TSA agent continued the pat down. My daughter felt molested and humiliated and as a parent I was helpless to stop this violation.” “I have never felt so humiliated and violated. I have gone through the stages of being a sexual assault victim…Shock,Denial,Blame,Pain,Anger…I have yet to come with the Acceptance stage.”
- This is being done because terrorists figured other ways to sneak things onto planes. Argument: Yes, and now they will develop a new way. Until strip searches and cavity searches are de rigor, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Additionally, if all one wants to do is bring down a plane, they don’t actually have to even go into the airport, let alone the terminal.
- The resulting images are hardly centerfold-worthy. Argument: True, but obviously you can see the size of a woman’s breasts and a man’s dick.
- If they want to scan me and show everyone so I can stay safe, go ahead, I’m not embarrassed. Seen one, seen ‘em all. Argument: Great, good for you. But there are a lot of people with personal issues and body insecurities. Further, how are you going to feel about nude scans or extensive pat downs on your teenage daughters? Will you feel like a good father, allowing that to happen to them? You taught your kids not to let anyone touch them “down there,” and now you have to tell them that there are exceptions to the rule – how confused is a four year old going to be over this?
- We [Americans] hate profiling, even though it’s been proven effective in other countries. Argument: the Israelis profile based on behavior, not race, although I’m sure that factors into it. Would we, as Americans, rather be “PC” and not profile for fear we’ll be called racist, or subject ourselves (and our loved ones) to radiation (however small the amount) and allow strangers to put their hands in our pants? (Sidenote – the original poster, Cowboy, even said (this is a direct quote): “if and I say if there are other countries out there that do not use these same measures, it is probably due to they have not been attacked.” (Is anyone else laughing with me over this quote?)
- Although I don’t like it, I’m okay with it because I have nothing to hide. My rule: if you have nothing to hide, don’t worry about it. Argument: This is the exact ideology that is eroding our civil liberties. Wire tapping is fine, I have nothing to hide (so it won’t happen to me). Putting a GPS tracker on a car while it’s parked in a driveway is fine, I have nothing to hide (so it won’t happen to me). We have been giving away these rights, little by little, and sooner or later we are going to wake up and say, “Hey, wait a minute!” and the government is going to reply, “Well, you didn’t have a problem with it before.” (There’s a quote in this article that struck me: “…this is how a police state works: They introduce one element at a time and then wait for everybody to get used to it before adding another layer of intrusion to their lives.”)
I agree with the original Facebook post – If you don’t like it, don’t fly. Some people don’t have that option. This can affect people’s livelihoods – do I want to continue working to support my family (by traveling, as my job requires) and give up on these civil liberties, or do I want to stand up against it and not fly (and lose my job in the process)? Here’s the point: DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH. Know what you’re facing the next time you go to the airport. Have all the facts. This is your body, your health, and damnit, the government has no right to tell you what to do with those two things. Once you know the facts, then make an INFORMED decision based on your personal belief system. If you want to debate the merits and/or faults of the new system with me, please have something more to say than, “TERRORISTS! 9/11! The sky is falling!”
Wednesday, November 24th (yes, the day before Thanksgiving, yes, the busiest travel day of the year), is National Opt Out Day. The organizers are urging everyone flying on Wednesday to “Opt Out” of the scanner and instead have the “enhanced” pat down. They want people to understand what the pat down entails, and to determine for yourself if you are okay with receiving it…and if you’re okay with your spouse, mother, father, and children (the 15 year old girl, the 4 year old boy) receiving it.
I was listening to the radio today, to some radio personality on AM radio (sorry, I couldn’t figure out who it was). The guy was telling people, don’t opt out. It’ll only slow everything down, and it won’t make a statement of any kind. He was recommending, instead, that people go through the scanner and salute the TSA – with one finger (guess which one). “Free speech!” he said. “Make a statement!”
All due respect, but what exactly is that going to do? I have nothing against the TSA agents themselves – they’re just doing their job (although, if it were me, I’d be looking for another job right quick). Flipping off the TSA agent is not going to make any statement, other than, “I’m an immature asshole.” Let me explain the idea behind Opting Out:
IT’S A FREAKING BOYCOTT! Why do people boycott a business? To make a statement. To make the business sit up and take notice. To make them realize that people don’t like what they are doing, people are doing something about it, and it’s going to affect the business’ bottom line. This is what the Opt Out Day is for. Although the organizers state that the intention is not to slow down air travel, it will obviously slow down the security lines if even half the people going through decide to opt out of the scanners. It will show TSA (and the government) that we don’t agree with the scanners. It will show other people that there are people willing to make a stand against them, which will in turn make others more likely to do so. It will affect the airlines, possibly causing delays, certainly upsetting passengers when they miss their flight due to the long wait, who will demand some sort of compensation. It is the American people, en masse, saying, “We are not going to put up with this.” And just like with a boycott, if enough people do it, maybe someone will take notice.
I don’t think we’re getting the full truth. I was going to do a summary of what TSA says about the scanners and what I’ve heard and found, but I’ve spent way too long on this post, and besides, this post does that pretty well.
Some additional interesting links:
- Ron Paul has introduced H.R. 6416, The American Traveler Dignity Act, to the House. You can read about it here.
- FedUpFlyers was started by a pilot, and has several first-hand accounts from crew personnel and passengers about the security measures. I suggest you read them. Yes, they are touching your genitals. If you’re a woman and you wear a skirt, they WILL slide their hands ALL the way up to your panties. If you wear skimpy underwear, your labia may be touched. Are you okay with that? Are you okay with your wife, your daughter being subjected to that?
- WeWontFly – Act Now. Travel with Dignity.
As a final note, let’s look to the people who do this for a living – the pilots and flight attendants who go through this daily. Pilots unions are urging pilots not to go through the scanners. Flight attendants have contacted the ACLU and may file suit. These are professionals, and they’re not okay with it. I’m not either.
***ETA – OMG!!! I just found this online, and laughed hysterically.