The fact that this has been a major 24-hour news story for several days plays on our inability, as a nation, to make discriminating choices. It seems, on the one hand, that we are unable to tolerate the least insecurity in any aspect of our lives; we demand protection from the slightest threat. And that, on the other, we scream bloody murder if we are asked to make the smallest sacrifice to ensure the security we crave. Despite indisputable and centuries-old evidence that we are, and will remain vulnerable creatures, no matter what we do to protect ourselves, we act in the expectation that in our case it will be different.
I wonder, too, about the dread fear of being touched. It's obviously not something that I crave, from strangers, but the security pat-down--and I myself have been subjected to this treatment, and survive to tell the tale--is sexual only in the imagination of those who fear it so. To have the fleeting, professional, impersonal, and hopefully skillful touch of searching hands is surely no worse than a visit to the doctor's--and could prove as life-saving to oneself and one's fellow travelers. I understand that there are those who have more reason than I to object viscerally to this kind of invasion--I think of rape victims, for example, or of people of color who associate it with the too-familiar humiliation of encounters with authority. I sympathize with them. Still, we are dealing with something broader and more potentially life-threatening than personal dignity or phobias.
So who, I ask myself, stands to gain from inflating this issue into something far greater than it ought to be? Politicians, that's who. They are grateful for any distraction from their own costly and disastrous failures. Those on the right--this is my unhappy belief--will exploit the slightest opportunity to foment discontent and rage against officialdom. It is to the advantage of some politicians, then, and of those who use them to further their financial interests; those, I mean, who can afford to buy politicians to do their bidding. And, sorry, yes, the media, too, who have a vested interest in controversial or sensational fodder for their news cycles, and who also have their bottom line of corporate profit to ensure. Those who stand to gain the least from the furor--or lose--are the airline patrons, who will find themselves standing in longer lines behind noisier and more quarrelsome fellow-travelers, whose objections to routine security will be validated by the current frenzy.
So yes, pat me down. Please. Scan me, by all means. And move me on with the assurance of safety toward the gate.