Almost everybody has weighed in about the TSA’s new “strip and grope” policy. Opinions cover the spectrum from support to outrage, humor to disgust.
My own opinion has moved from outrage to . . . resignation. Yes, that is the best word. I am resigned. Why, you ask?
Well I’ll tell ya. It started with remembering the fact that President Bush started us down this path, with the creation of the Department of
Bureaucratic Homeland Security.
(For this and other reasons, I don’t “miss him yet.” George Bush needs to admit that the Tea Party Movement is a reaction to his and other Republican failings as much as anything else.)
Next, I mentally processed the whole “nakedness” issue. I thought about the day my first son was born, and how I cast all remnants of shame and modesty aside as I pushed . . . and strained . . . that friggin’ cranium out, to the cheers of nurses and birth coaches encircling the stirrups. (Hubs was on the boat and missed out, lucky!)
So, no. I have no shame. I don’t give a rat’s furry behind about who sees my muffin top or my breasts, when it comes down to it.
This is the point where the kids become the issue. How can you feel comfortable with body scanners, when you know that images have already been saved and disseminated on the internet? What will stop pedophiles from either getting a TSA job or paying a handsome price for a TSA employee’s photos?
We can just opt for the pat-down, right? The older son, yeah, okay. The younger one? Uh, no. I don’t think I can convince him it’s okay to have his “junk touched.” I know my kid, and that is not gonna end well.
Look. I’ve been though this already, long before touching was involved. I have flown with small children countless times, usually as a single parent. Each flight is different, because of the boys’ different developmental stages, and also because of the varying TSA encounters.
The only time a real problem occurred was when my first son was two years old. As we approached the gate checkpoint, he decided that the metal-detecting doorway looked spooky. He did not want to walk through it. Come hell or high water. Normally, I would just carry him through. This time, however, the TSA agent insisted that each individual walk through separately.
Okey-dokey then. I had already got him out of the stroller, folded the stroller, put it on the conveyor belt, as well as our backpack, our jackets, and our shoes. The agent tried to coax him through. Nope. I tried to put him down and get through the doorway first, knowing he would follow. Alas, I could not extricate the now wailing child from my leg. A painful minute or two ensued, during which I tried to reason with this TSA agent. My son screamed and fought with all his might. I couldn’t even hear myself think, let alone talk above the screaming. I felt heat rising in my cheeks as I started to worry about whether we would board our flight. I could feel the weight of the queue growing behind me.
Mercifully, a supervisor came over and spoke with this agent. He beckoned me through the metal detector, allowing me to carry my still-screaming (and now red and sweaty) son with me. Disaster averted.
What a horror show, and for what?
Well, I’ll tell ya. For it is the root of our problem, far more than any pedo-fears or privacy concerns.
The real problem is this: “zero tolerance” policies.
Libertarian and conservative types are particularly repulsed by zero tolerance policies, methinks. We want to be treated as individuals. We want to use our own God-given common sense, and we want others to do the same.
Zero-tolerance policies do not allow this. In fact, such policies are created to stop case-by-case judgments. The individual TSA agent is technically not allowed to make any tough calls. He must simply implement policy, regardless of the result.
This strikes freedom-loving individualists as stupid and cowardly. It makes us mad. Ironically, these policies do not stop agents from using their discretion. All it does is cover their butts whenever they choose to more strictly enforce the policy than they usually do.
Whether it’s a preschooler getting patted-down, or a student getting suspended for Tylenol, the results of this policy are ludicrous. Some folks are willing to put up with the ridiculousness, either because they believe the nuisance is worth the extra security, or because they believe political correctness is more important than actual security.
Me? I’ve always had a real low tolerance for this sort of bull crap.
But I’m resigned to it. I have no choice. It’s one of those, “get over it or die angry” things. I may have to fly with my kids, whether I want to or not. I am a Navy wife. I live far from the family members I love and miss and like to visit. We move every couple of years, and sometimes continents are involved.
I will say this: exception-making is a deal-breaker. I understand that CAIR has requested an exception for Islamic women who wear long, tent-like coverings. Nevermind the zero tolerance policy. Nevermind the fact that, regardless of the religious persuasion, large swathes of draping fabric can hide just about anything:
The whole reason we are supposed to be willing to suffer this crap is because everyone is supposed to suffer it, no exceptions. Isn’t that the point to frisking nuns and preschoolers? To say, “see, we aren’t discriminating against anyone. We don’t make exceptions!”
If they make exceptions, then I will have a problem with resigning to TSA’s zero tolerance policy. Even if I have to PCS across an ocean. I’ll let you know if I expect to be the star in my very own “don’t touch our junk” video exclusive . . .
UPDATE: Thank you, Glenn Reynolds, a.k.a. Bringer of Many Page Views!
UPDATE #2: Okay I just saw this video over at Right Klik, and it is so not okay with me. Until things change, I sure hope circumstances do not force me to fly with the kids. This is just sad, sad, sad.
UPDATE #3: Things just seem to get worse and worse. A bladder cancer survivor’s story:
“One agent watched as the other used his flat hand to go slowly down my chest. I tried to warn him that he would hit the bag and break the seal on my bag, but he ignored me. Sure enough, the seal was broken and urine started dribbling down my shirt and my leg and into my pants.”
Surely the Powers-That-Be have heard these horror stories and will change the policy. Surely.
Don’t call me Shirley.