Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What if they gave an airport screening and nobody came?

One of my friends recently set off the metal detector alarm at an airport, subjecting her to TSA’s new pat down procedures. The TSA agent handled my friend’s breasts, buttocks, and genitals through her clothing, and put her fingers into my friend’s trousers. This new regime does not involve a hand-held metal detector, so after the pat down, the agent sent her on without looking for or finding the metal that triggered the alarm in the first place—her artificial knees.

The hands of TSA screeners do not belong on parts of our bodies that would be off-limits to anyone but a doctor or someone with whom we’d at least enjoyed dinner and a movie. We empower our children to say no to “bad touches.” What lesson do we give them when we make exceptions for TSA employees so unprofessional and immature that they've been known to ridicule one another’s body scans?

New full-body x-ray scanners probe us with radiation to produce detailed photos of our naked bodies. I’ve lost too many family members to cancer to submit myself to unnecessary radiation. Yes, flying itself subjects us to radiation, and when I assent to medical or dental x-rays I’m also subjected to radiation. But radiation’s effects are cumulative, like buying lottery tickets. I will accept the risk when it provides offsetting health benefits or a lovely trip in the sky. Flying is no longer a lovely experience, and I will not submit to either pat down assaults or “porno scans” for nothing more than security theater. I’m done with air travel.

We Americans are subjecting ourselves to governmental invasions of personal privacy and freedom comparable to what Soviet citizens endured in the 1950s. Totalitarianism by any other name still stinks.