Some time ago, in some comment or other, someone asked about how to handle the “new” airport security full-body scan. At the time I had not done any traveling, so I didn’t know exactly what it was like. But I just got back from a trip, and I saw first-hand (or shall I say hands-on) how this new system works.
It was very early in the a.m., so I was not on top of my game. In fact, I had heard that some airports have been scaling back their use of the full-body scans, given the public blow-back they had received, so I did not have it in my mind as we began our winding dance through the security line.
I had carefully packed, taking pains to remove all offensive items from my purse that might cause someone to blow the whistle. Rather than do the zip-lock baggie, I just shoved everything liquid into my suitcase. And I’m all for keeping the lines moving and not slowing everyone down by having fifty quarters in my pocket. Anyway, I dutifully removed my shoes and coat and put everything neatly into the two bins and began moving through the line. As I got right up to the old-fashioned metal detector doorway, a worker from the next line signaled for me to come over. Initially I thought he just wanted to open up a new line, but as I started walking through, I realized I was right smack in the middle of the full-body x-ray machine. I told him I did not want to go through that one. So he called a female security person who met me and walked me through a different route, around the old-fashioned machine. Since I had “opted out” of the walk-through, I was now treated to the pat-down.
“Stand here. Where’s your stuff?” she asked.
“Right there,” I pointed. My two bins were sitting innocently a few feet away on the conveyor belt that had carried them successfully through the x-ray machine.
“If you don’t tell me where they are, I won’t be able to move them over here for you,” she snarled.
So I walked over to them to point them out more accurately.
“Don’t touch them!”
This is where I should have just kept quiet. But I didn’t. Instead, thinking that I was a free citizen and forgetting that I was in the liberty-free zone, I said, “Why not? It’s my stuff. Why am I being treated like this?”
At that point she called over her supervisor who meekly listened while we each laid out our views on the subject. Then he moved back to his post (without a word) and we proceeded with the pat down.
“Would you like to go to a private room?” my female security person asked.
“Absolutely not. Do your deed right here in the public view.”
The pat down itself was not such a big deal. But I will tell you what was a big deal. At airports we are now all treated as though we are guilty, guilty, guilty until we can prove our innocence by shedding our outer garments, giving up our property rights while our belongings are searched, and being patted down (with the backs of the blue-gloved hands). Something is terribly wrong with this system. Being born in America, I have always felt and been treated like a free citizen. It is something assumed, like my own last name. I understand that if I get pulled over by a cop because I ran a red light, that he is doing his job and I did a baddie. But when I purchase a ticket on an airline, with that ticket now comes the understanding that I am going to be treated with unfounded suspicion. And I may have to prove my innocence twice.
I don’t know what we free citizens can do. It seems to me that we can either quit flying (not a bad idea) or….I haven’t thought of the other option. I doubt that airports would allow picketing. We could write our congressmen, but they seem busy with other things right now.
On the bright side, on our return flight the scanning machines were arranged so that you could choose which line to get in yourself. Clearly, many Americans don’t mind going through the full-body scanners. Either that or they don’t want to be late to the gate by asking for a pat-down instead. But I got in the line for the old-fashioned machine, and after removing my shoes, coat, sweater, and scarf and walking through the little metal detector, I was declared innocent and fit for travel. I prefer being given a choice rather than being randomly selected for the pat down. Wouldn’t you?
I truly wonder how many real terrorists have been caught with this new system. Surely we should pray that God will deliver us from such tyrannical treatment at our nation’s airports. The security guards are just people, but they are being paid to treat their fellow citizens in a way that has to have a hardening effect on them as well as on us. If we get used to being treated this way, willing to subject ourselves to this in order to enjoy the privilege of flying, then I wonder what’s next. We don’t want to become the kind of people who are used to being denied their liberty. That’s a dangerous condition for us all.