Friday, November 19, 2010

Screening Precious Human Bodies

I have three thoughts about what looks to be the most interesting...and in some ways very of the moment...That a fellow refused to go through the new scanners at the airport, told a screener,  "If you touch my junk I'll have you arrested"  (while filming the whole thing on his phone...hummmm....).

My first thought is that I'm sorry that men have taken to calling their sexual organs "junk".   How self-demeaning that is?  If it's just junk, why be so pissy about it being touched?   Think, guys! Your bodies are sacred.  That's the point of all this upset.

My second thought is this.  Has anyone who objects to someone in a room far away scan the unclothed outline of their body for 20 seconds before discarding the picture come up with a better idea for how to manage safety in a world in which people put bombs in their underpants?  If they have, I'm all ears.  I think that the TSA has done a great job thinking out the necesseties of this kind of scanning and making it as unhurtful as possible.  Albuquerque has had these scanners for a couple of years now...we were a test site.  Believe me, folks, they are quite benign.   And I'm willing to trust that they are safe, (as much radiation as 3 minutes at 30,000 feet they say...not even pilots can object to another three minutes.) until I hear something a little less hysterical than I've been hearing about safety.

So...actually, I don't have much sympathy for people who refuse to go through these scanners and then get upset about the indignities of the pat down.

But I believe that there are some people who, because they have knee replacements and such, have to go through the pat down every time.  And that pat-down does sound pretty invasive to me.  Not quite as invasive as what a doctor does, of course, but would take the pleasure out of flying for me if I had to do it every time.

So here's my idea for a compromise.

Let's we Americans grow up, buck up, adjust to the new realities, and thank TSA for making this new kind of  scanning safe, painless, and dignified.  In return, let's demand that those who for reasons they can't help, like medical hardware,  have an alternative to an invasive, uncomfortable procedure every time they fly.

Of course, we could decide that it's ok with us if underwear bombs go off in airplanes every once in a while, because safety procedures are just too onerous.   It probably wouldn't happen very often, and the carnage would be less than the number of highway deaths in the nation for that month in any case.  Whatcha say?


Tom Loughrey said...

Due to a left knee replacement I have been going through either the pat down or the full-body scan for some time now. I was surprised a few weeks ago on my return flight when the usual metal detecting wand was retired and it was a more thorough, and yes, more intimate pat down. I have been through the same procedure now several times. It has been thorough, professional, and polite. I have not felt "groped", "invaded" or otherwise violated. I do prefer the scan if only because it is faster, requires less disrobing and feels far less invasive of my personal space. So yes, let's grow up and move on. There are real privacy issues to worry about and this does not even rise to that level. Tom Loughrey

Paul Oakley said...

I disagree, Christine. It has seemed to me from the beginning of so-called Homeland Security that what America is really getting is not enhanced security but security theater. I, for one, feel less secure the more money and procedures we throw at coming off as more secure. So I hope to be able to avoid the unfriendly skies by driving or taking the train anywhere that is connected by land to where I am.

For those who want to continue to be handled in the way we've come to expect from airport security, that's your choice. It doesn't make the system reasonable, respectful, or even safe, though.

aclUU said...

For various reasons, I am largely immune to the psychological operations the U.S. government has used against its own citizens at least since the Cold War: once communism was no longer a threat, "terroism" quickly filled the vacuum. On September 11, 2001, I knew the destruction of the World Trade Center would be used to suppress civil liberties in America only because I know enough about history.

The terrorists destroying America are the politicians and lobbyists in Washington, DC and the bankers on Wall Street.

When most Americans use the phrase "grow up," what they REALLY mean is to trade ethical values for economic security or to submit to authoritarian control. This is not "growing up" but its opposite, essentially Orwellian Newspeak.

Would you have advised those who fought in the American Revolution (including some of my ancestors) to "grow up?" What about Native Americans? Slaves? Abolitionists? Civil rights leaders? Feminists? Environmentalists?

Real maturity means having the courage to resist America's ongoing slouching toward facism, even though this may threaten our relatively comfortable lives.

"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." --Benjamin Franklin

Boycott the airlines!

Andy said...

I guess I'll be the jerk who brings up trans people?

Anonymous said...

Even the TSA literature acknowledges that they really don't know the level of radiation. I certainly don't want my children, or myself for that matter, to be exposed to more radiation than necessary. That means we opt for the pat downs. Please don't insult us for that choice.

Amy said...

let's demand that those who for reasons they can't help, like medical hardware, have an alternative to an invasive, uncomfortable procedure every time they fly

This makes sense to me. Do you have something specific in mind?

Far from being a jerk, Andy has brought up my main concern. I worry more about the impact of these procedures on people whose genitals don't conform to expectation than on people with prosthetic knees or plates in their heads.