Thursday, November 18, 2010
Well the holiday travel season is once more upon us, and with it the latest Transportation Security Administration abuses in the name of airport safety. This year's TSA furor arises over the passenger choice of a full body scan that allows the airport mall cops an intimate picture of you or a full body grope that allows them a pat down procedure that would be considered illegal if perpetrated by anyone other than a government representative.
As in previous years, these increases in personal privacy abuse have passengers and potential passengers up in arms (and not for the pat down or the scan). We are told that this time travelers have finally had enough and will not put up with such personal abuse. Really?
I remember as if it were only yesterday having just left an airport in Chicago on September 11, 2001 when we saw what had happened in New York. I remember fears that the Sears Tower or the McCormick Place convention center might be next, and the insistence of fellow employees that my boss and I drive back to Cleveland rather than risk air travel from an industry that had yet to be shut down. I remember another co-worker stranded in Juneau, Alaska for weeks while the airline industry sorted itself in the confusing days afterward.
In the days since we have put up with an increasing level of abuse in the name of security (or the illusion thereof). X-rays of our luggage, metal detectors for our persons, special liquid containers of less than 3 ounces, and swabbing of our luggage for explosive residue are only some of the things that we have learned to put up with in the name of this questionable safety.
Just as important however, is the time added to travel as we are herded through the system. It hasn't been so long ago that travelers could arrive at an airport less than 30 minutes before a flight and still expect to be able to board. Now we grudgingly accept that we need to arrive 1-2 hours before to clear security procedures. It likewise hasn't been all that long ago that we were able to enjoy the open air architecture at entrances to gate areas designed to please the eyes. Now we benignly accept roped off mazes that are reminiscent of livestock corrals or slaughterhouses and we the herd are funneled through an onerous and intrusive process of no proven value on our way to the government bureaucratic slaughter.
And who gave TSA the power to continuously change the rules, treat us as livestock, and impose its will upon us? These are not elected officials who rule with the power of law passed by elected officials; they are bureaucrats who impose their will without popular consent and apparently with little or no oversight. John Pistole in fact told Congress only this week that while he understood the anger and concern of passengers over their most recent procedures, this would have no impact on their imposition. In other words, 'I know you don't like it, but I don't care!'
Then again, why should he? Each year the abuses, restrictions, and regulations of government increase, and each year we hear the cry that this is finally enough. By the end of each holiday travel season however, the furor has died down and the lowing herd seem once more content in the corral. Even the airlines, whose business has to have been impacted by customers who now look at longer road trips before taking to the air seems to be content with increasing government interference with their profitability (though this may simply be a fear to challenge a government which has long since proven itself willing to pick winners and losers in 'private enterprise').
One in fact might well ask what additional deaths will be caused by those taken to unsafe roads to travel in an effort to avoid the safety of airline travel. Beginning with Cuban hijackers (which we almost remember fondly now) and graduating to the current crop of domestic and foreign terrorists, we have seen the freedom to travel in this country change before our eyes. The exceptional mobility of the American citizen has increasingly become a reticence to travel because of these onerous policies, and it doesn't take a tin foil hat to see that the long arm of government bureaucracy over such freedoms is favorably viewed by a ruling elite who believe they know what's best for us.
It also doesn't take a genius to figure out that a less mobile population willing to accept an ever-growing level of government behavioral abuse is one that's easier to control. I am therefore grateful that I am no longer forced to spend the time in these Greyhounds of the Air in the process of earning a living; just as I feel fortunate that I no longer need to submit myself to the vagaries of this part of the bureaucratic mentality on a regular basis.
And while I strenuously object to the continuing and increasing abuse of my freedom by yet another faceless bureaucracy, I recognize that I am a voice crying out in the wilderness (sorry for the Biblical reference). I likewise recognize that while the current storm over this year's latest abuse no doubt is genuine, it will die down soon enough as the majority returns to what's really important ... the finalists in "Dancing With The Stars".