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Airport “Security”

December 29, 2009

I have to say that I have actually been enjoying some aspects of the recent “Detroit Attack” media circus.  I am glad that nothing serious happened (not to mention that my own Detroit departure two days ago would have been hindered) – but I am also glad that this incident has reopened the debate on airline safety and “The War on Terror.”

I ranted about TSA in August; however that was about the politicization of the terror threat levels.  I am not going to touch on that, except to say that I feel somewhat vindicated, as there was nowhere for TSA to raise the threat level to on Christmas because it has been artificially elevated for years (and red was inappropriate this time).

What the Underpants bomber has helped bring into public discourse is that there is no such thing as invulnerability.  No matter how many new restrictions are put in place, crafty people intent on blowing up planes will find a way.    I think as a society we need to begin defining how far we are willing to let the government and law enforcement encroach on our own civil liberties and travel habits in order to prevent an attack that may not be preventable without grotesque measures like cavity searches (a passenger was recently arrested in Saudi Arabia with a bomb up his ass).

A lot of talking heads have suggested using the imaging devices that scan your body and send an image of your nakedness to a screener in another room.  It’s tempting, because you could see a pack of explosives attached to a body part; however these searches are tantamount to a strip search – and don’t necessarily tell you what a person is concealing (cocaine, or high powered explosives?).  I would prefer scanning devices that detected explosives, like the retired puffer machines.  You know what kind of chemicals a person has been playing with, without an unknown person in a “sequestered location” knowing that your left bosom is bigger than the right, or that you only have one testicle and the world’s smallest penis.

The part of the Captain Underpants discussion I find most important however, is the realization that our free society is by its very nature vulnerable to attack by loonies from whatever ideology.  When we close our society and deny basic rights in order to “protect ourselves” we are giving in to terror and in my opinion are making a huge mistake.  Our lives must go on, regardless of what potential threats we face.  If we kowtowed to every potential danger we would never leave our beds for fear of drowning in the bathtub, burning ourselves on the oven (my second favorite pastime), or getting into a car accident.

In 2008 I had the privilege of meeting an extraordinary woman named Ronit Tubul.  Ronit was on a bus heading into Jerusalem when a suicide bomber standing next to her detonated his load blasting her out of the opened roof of the bus and onto the pavement.  She lost the ability to walk and talk, which she eventually regained.  Her life was nearly taken, and was certainly changed forever.  But in spite of this terrible experience she believes that life must go on – that we should not and cannot stop just going to cafes or ride on buses because of a lingering threat, we must live our lives.

This is something that Americans cannot seem to grasp.  Yes, terrorist attacks are shocking and frightening, but life goes on.  And frankly, shit happens.  But unfortunately our government refuses to acknowledge that shit happens, and until it does we will be subjected to more security theater and inconveniences.

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