For some reason, Americans have fundamentally reached the apathy stage when it comes to the myriad of personal intrusions inherent in getting on a commercial aircraft. In return for the privilege of being sandwiched together with a bunch of strangers, their personalities, and their bodily functions, we ‘agree’ to look away – literally – as another complete stranger touches us in ways we spend a good number of years teaching our kids are not okay. We open our bags, take out things that these aliens decide they need to pour through, fondle, and sometimes steal or ruin. All the while, they often miss the things they claim are so important to find.
It’s all to keep us safe, they say, and because the horror of 9/11 burned into our collective consciousness, we ignore these indignities. We’ve somehow convinced ourselves that this theater is real, that the fantasy of safety exists; besides, how else can we get from New York to LA and Seattle to Miami in a day? And so, we all line up like good little citizens, and plod, shoeless, beltless and vulnerable, through an obstacle course where successful completion requires that you let them take a negative picture of what you look like virtually naked and maybe even take a peek down your pants. During the entire ordeal, we split our possessions – including important things like your license, wallet, and house keys – across a multitude of bins, trying to watch them all as they make their way through the gauntlet. Hopefully, it’s all still there by the time you’ve finished the groping session and can get back to the bins, as they sit at the end of the conveyor belt – lonely, unsupervised, and easy pickings. With such a rousingly fun time in store for airport goers, it’s no wonder why so many people refuse to fly these days.
In its never-ending quest to find new ways to strip both clothing layers and dignity from airline passengers, now it seems that the TSA is testing a pilot program in which passengers must remove all paper products from bags for additional screening.
Yes, Virginia, there is apparently a national security threat in your Post-It notes and dry cleaner tickets.
Documents, notepads, and anything else made of paper must be taken out of passengers’ bags and set aside in a separate bin so that these strangers have more things of yours to caress. The lines aren’t long enough, you know, and the process isn’t demeaning enough just yet. Then again, some might argue, the TSA agents are already touching our breasts and groins, so what’re a few papers too?
While this cavalier attitude toward liberty, privacy, and the overreach of government is worthy of an entire lecture series of its own, it’s not what this article is about, and your Post-It notes aren’t what the new pilot program is about either. Just like everything else the government claims for your safety, the additional screening for paper products is about control.
What is paper often used to make? Books? Documents? Ideas? Information. How many people use an airline flight to catch up on their reading, or get some work done? Well, now those books and even corporate documents are subject to scrutiny. How much longer before books deemed ‘hate speech’ get seized at the checkpoint (only later to be burned)? Is a stack of flyers for a Liberty rally now a threat? Or Dr. Joseph Martino’s book Resistance to Tyranny?
The idea may sound laughable but think about it. During the years of the Iron Curtain, people smuggled Bibles into Communist countries because that was the only way for individuals in those countries to read it. During the years of slavery in the U.S., slaves were sometimes not allowed to learn to read at all. Why is that? Information has the power to make men free. And then, of course, there is the Great Reformation in which the Roman Catholic church went all burn-at-the-stake regarding the printing of the Bible – too much knowledge for the masses is not a good thing.
So here we are, over two hundred years from Fort McHenry, giving not our lives at the foot of the flagpole, but our freedoms at the airport scanner. It’s not enough that they want to see our bare feet, the inside of our bodies, the contents of our carry-on bags. Now they want to see our books and papers too.
At some point, shouldn’t the tradeoff become too much? Look at your fellow passengers’ expressions and attitudes while waiting for their turn as those uniformed agents conduct their Grand Inquisition. We have become the huddles masses yearning to breathe free – all while dividing our possessions and keeping children compliant and quiet and trying to avoid eye contact with any the palace guard. And so, we simply keep our heads down — praying not to get any special attention, praying we go unnoticed so we can just get through it and get to where we’re going. Does that sound like a free country to you? It sounds a lot more like the intake line at a concentration camp, doesn’t it?
Some might find that comparison offensive, but let’s face it. The lines at the camps didn’t keep people safe, and neither do the ones at our airports. They both, however, serve as a fantastic way to control large groups of people. Next time you go through airport security, look around. Are you safe? Or are you just controlled? Are the fantasy and ‘convenience’ truly worth it? Or are we just trading liberty for serfdom?