So, this post really has nothing to do with atheism, or the military, except as it relates to the fact that I was traveling home from the Secular Student Alliance‘s 2013 eastern conference in Columbus, Ohio this past weekend and I did a talk there that at least was partly related to the military. Quick word about the SSA conference: I can’t say enough great stuff about the SSA and their conference. It was a truly amazing experience and being located in the same place as all those young, secular, future leaders filled me with hope for the future of our movement. I say well done to everyone who had a hand in getting that thing together.
But, I digress. This post is really about my adventures with the TSA at the airport in Columbus, Ohio. When leaving home, I have the relative luxury of passing through security in a tiny, regional airport, with no body scanners and a fairly quick screening process, mainly because the planes are small so there’s never that many people to screen. However, coming back is a different story. First of all, as I started winding my way through the Disney-style rope line to get to the Columbus airport screening area, I saw that this airport had one of those full body scanners; the kind where you have to brace your feet, raise your hands up in the air like you are under arrest or in some sort of hold up, then let this machine irradiate your body with-who-knows-what. Then, after dumping my shoes, belt, shampoo, computer, and bag on the belt and going through the machine, a female TSA agent waives me over and says “I gotta check your sparklies”. Well, at first, I have no idea what the fuck that means so I stand there looking at her and then I quickly find out what it means. Apparently, there was an issue with the sequins sewed decoratively on the front of my shirt, so “checking my sparklies” meant a full-on, two-handed grab of both my breasts, out in public by the belt, followed by a thumb rub under each breast, under the edge of my bra.
Immediately prior to my second base encounter with this agent, my friend was undergoing a head squeeze-and-tap, apparently because there was something about her bobby pins that the machine didn’t like, and the whole time, my friend is asking the agent to be gentle because she’s punching the bobby pins into my friend’s scalp. After my breast grab and my friend’s scalp rub, we were sent on our way, and the whole thing happened so fast, it took me a few minutes to process what had happened.
So, I grabbed my belongings and I sat down to get my shit together, and that’s when it hit me – that I was basically just indecently assaulted and my friend was physically assaulted out in public and there wasn’t a damn thing we could do about it. My only crime was my choice of a cute, sparkly top and my friend’s only crime was wanting to hold her hair out of her face.
What happened to the Constitution?
Why is this okay? Why have we, as Americans, created a situation where traveling with sequins is justification to get your breasts grabbed by a stranger? I’m not unfamiliar with the security concerns – I served on active duty in both the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts – but come on, at what point did we decide it was okay to assault law-abiding Americans who just want to travel? Newsflash – when we allow our rights, the rights that make us uniquely American, to be given away in the interests of so-called security, then the terrorists have won…