A lot of commentary has appeared in recent days over the new TSA regulations that call for full-body-scanner nakedness or state-sponsored sexual molestation. On the one hand, I am inclined to think we’re all getting a little carried away here. Do we not want to be safe on our plane flights? Do we not understand that this requires certain sacrifices, certain inconveniences, and that it is the job of the Homeland Security Department and the Transportation Security Administration (otherwise known as TNA) to respond to and anticipate the most cutting-edge ways terrorists devise to blow us to bits (in their tender mercy)?
Neither am I convinced by the argument that there is some abridgment of constitutional rights taking place here. Flying is more or less a voluntary activity, and one can at least make the argument that these are reasonable measures in light of a compelling national interest. However…
There are three legitimate issues here:
(1) This is yet another example of government encroachment into the lives and liberties of ordinary Americans. While I don’t view this as an abridgment of rights, there is no doubt that this is a further interference into the exercise of our liberties. The sentiment is widespread: a wildly expanding government reached into the mortgage industry (and contributed to the mess we’re in), reached into the auto industry (with more dubious results), reached so far into the health care industry that the government hand is down doctors’ and patients’ throats — and now the government is reaching into my pants as well. When do we stand athwart the tendency to solve everything with government solutions and shout stop?
This is why the TSA issue has roused its own folk hero: John “Don’t Touch My Junk” Tyner. He is the latest in a long line of common-man heroes like Joe the Plumber, Rodney “Can’t We All Just Get Along?” King, and Sarah “You Betcha” Palin. Well, okay, those probably aren’t the best examples. But folk heroes do not arise because of their own great talents. They are, by definition, Everyman. Folk heroes arise because they represent the zeitgeist, the spirit of the moment. J-Junk Tyner and his act of minor rebellion made him a hero to thousands, if not millions, of frustrated travelers.
(2) What adds to the frustration, at least for many conservatives, is that there are better options available – but they are options we will not pursue because of political correctness. I speak of course of profiling. Is profiling racist or bigoted? Or is it, as conservatives allege, simply rational thinking? All people are not equally dangerous. While no individual can be judged guilty according to the group to the national or ethnic group to which he belongs, one might argue that individuals can be considered more deserving of scrutiny because of the nations or ethnic groups to which they belong. And if they get upset about it, then they should take out their anger on the people who belongs to their national and ethnic groups who are bringing scrutiny and irritation upon them all — they should not be angry at a security apparatus that simply recognizes that some people are more likely to be a threat to other travelers than others.Charles Krauthammer points this out in an excellent column today. For how long will we keep up the charade that 3-year-old American girls and 95-year-old British old ladies are just as dangerous, or just as deserving of scrutiny, as young men from Saudi Arabia? Is it fair that everyone should be subjected to these procedures in order to spare the sensibilities of some? The Israeli airline system takes note of individuals who are more suspicious, and subjects them to more probing questioning. Could we do such a thing in America?
So the issue is not: the government is doing something unconstitutional. It is that the government is invading our lives more and more, and we are avoiding a far simpler solution for the sake of political correctness. (Of course, the liberal response would be that it’s not merely political correctness, but a matter of doing what’s right. I tend to lean to the conservative position here, though, and I’m trying to plumb why people are upset.)
(3) Finally, it’s easy to crack jokes about all this, but it’s a very unpleasant experience for some folks. I personally wouldn’t mind a pat-down from, say, a Victoria’s Secret supermodel. If we were able to choose from a gallery of attractive persons of both sexes, I imagine fewer individual travelers would object. (Thus the title of this blog post.) And hey, most men have had more…well, intimate interactions with their doctors — but then, I guess we don’t want to make trips to the airport like a visit to the proctologist. And although I don’t particularly care whether some beer-bellied TSA agent pats me down, I don’t really like the idea of the same being done to my wife and daughter.
And again, while I don’t particularly care if some screener sees an image that runs underneath my clothes, American culture is extraordinarily cruel in some ways to women, and many find the prospect of their naked bodies being imaged terrifying. So either you let everyone see what you look like naked, a thought which will drive some women mad, or you let someone feel you up, after which some women (in particular) will feel violated. Surely this is not the right solution?