In the 1970s, the government told us lead paint was perfectly safe. In the 1960s, the government told us asbestos was perfectly safe. In the 1950s, the government told us smoking was perfectly safe. In the 1940s, the government told us prenatal drugs were safe. Need I go on?
What are we missing here? Why are we being prodded into being hyper-focused on the prudery of being seen naked and ignoring the very questionable health safety claims of these airport full-body scanners? If we were told that in order to board a plane, we would need to each be given a flu shot, for our own protection from travelers who may be coughing and that shot would be administered by a TSA agent who carries no medical malpractice insurance or verifiable certification, would we submit to that? If we didn’t, we couldn’t board the plane. Nor could we leave once we entered the security area without being subject to arrest and fines. Would 98% of the flying public submit to that? Probably. We’re sheep and the TSA knows it.
CBS, NBC and other networks are saying that 81% of the public support the full-body scanners and 98% of all passengers are submitting to the full-body scan. They are in effect, saying that the “don’t touch my junk, opt-out” protestors are marginal, fringe, prudish nut-jobs. While the public is being corralled into the propaganda of the scanners as a “strip search,” the real concern of the scanner is being downplayed and all but ignored by both the TSA and the media. The real concern should be the health issues associated with using x-rays in a non-medical environment for non-medical reasons. The real concern should be how the TSA uses and abuses power once challenged by those who gave them the power — the American voters.
The double-down, dig-in, jaw-clenching, frustration-laden, totalitarian, “you don’t have to fly” rhetoric of Sec. of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and TSA Director John Pistole is adding fuel to the fire of the debate. Not only is it adding fuel to the TSA v flying public, but it is giving ammunition to the GOP for health care repeal. “See how they act when you resist?” they will point. “This is your government doing what they think is best for you.”
And that has consequences. Even people who voted for Health Care reform will be doing a second take and asking themselves, “If this is how they treat me when I resist at the airport, what if I resist that mandated health care? Do I really want to be treated like this when I go to the doctor?”
What the TSA is doing is not real security. Barking at people non-stop, aggressively callously and disrespectfully patting down travelers, irresponsibly submitting them to doses of radiation that may or may not be a “safe dose,” threatening resisters with arrest or detainment is not security. It is a circus and a breeding ground for small-minded people to wield power over helpless citizens with impunity. We’re seeing this vein in Napolitano and Pistole. We see and feel it in the hands of the TSA agent who neither sees nor hears us as he gropes and recites the policy he has memorized but never listened to.
A calm, control of the environment is real security. While I don’t generally use Hollywood as an example of real life, a quick viewing of Roadhouse should be part of the training. Bouncers who yell, grab and provoke only increase violence. Coolers who quickly, calmly and quietly diffuse the situation leave most of the patrons not even knowing there was ever a threat. I’ve seen this work in many European airports.
You can feel a difference in the air between Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) and New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) that is more than a little subtle. In AMS, you see the heavily armed guards around the perimeter, but they are not showy. You know you are being watched but not threatened. The guard who asks you questions in rapid succession is always calm, polite and respectful, but you are not able to goad him/her into an argument or force a break in character. (I’ve seen Americans try.) They ask you if it is ok to reach inside your coat in a soft, polite tone that makes you feel like you have a choice (you really don’t.) When you land on the US side, the transportation and customs people start yelling into the crowd to “get your passports out,” “make sure you have your Declaration Form 6059B complete,” “US citizens in this line, everyone else here” and on and on. The anxiety and circus continues to mount as the luggage moves through customs and you are “greeted” by agents. “Where were you? How long were you there? Did you visit any farms….” without respect or emotion except frustration and contempt.
But I digress.
The Federal Government has very few real opportunities to interact directly with the American public. Most of the time, we buy and sell things from corporations. But of the three government points most citizens touch — IRS, USPS and TSA — it seems to me that they could at least stop and think about how their most intimate interaction policy is affecting all others, seen and unseen. No less than the setback of modern healthcare for several more generations is at stake.
If you lose the trust of mothers with children at the TSA, you lose them at the doctor’s office as well.