The 10-year-old boy was enjoying a piece of Hawaiian pizza while his parents and I were visiting at the table. A spray of freckles crossed the bridge of his nose below blue eyes, and a smear of pizza sauce adorned his mouth. He was listening to our conversation while acting like he wasn’t.
We were discussing the state of national security, and how the Transportation Security Administration had chosen to pat down this child on a recent flight to visit relatives. This wholly innocent looking child — who could substitute for a young Ron Howard in Mayberry and who was obviously traveling with two parents and his little brother — was manhandled by an enormous TSA security officer checking for explosives, presumeably hidden in his Spiderman underwear.
The freckled young pizza eater piped up with the answer:
“Because I was a suspected terrorist!”
This is the world in which we live. One where parents are half terrified they’ll be blown to bits on an otherwise uneventful cross country flight and half terrified their child will be molested by a TSA security guard who has no reason whatsoever to pat down their 10-year-old other than to abide by “random” checks.
I would support revealing body scans and being felt up by authority figures if I thought it actually prevented terrorists from blowing up planes. But in the nine years since the World Trade bombings, clever terrorists (all young men of a certain ethnic persuasion I might point out if I were being politically incorrect) have upped the ante by concealing explosives in their shoes, in liquids (of 3 ounces or more) and their underwear. When some enterprising terrorist manages to transport explosives in his rectum, am I supposed to be willing undergo random anal probes?
It’s a ridiculous and expensive show paid for by taxpayer money in airports across the country every day that does nothing whatsoever to prevent someone who is willing to die for his cause to blow up a plane. And thanks to the boycott of body scans being encouraged on the busiest travel day of the year, this show will probably cause untold delays and headaches for regular old air travelers who are willing to pay $25 for their suitcase and $5 for mixed nuts.
It’s time for a sanity check. Face it: Air travel carries the risk of terrorism. If you don’t like it, don’t fly. Let’s use metal detectors to prevent obvious weapons like guns and knives (and fingernail clippers) from being carried on planes, but let’s not spend money on body scans and extra officers with rubber gloves.
If you take the argument to the extreme, you might say, “if you don’t like the TSA looking at scans of or patting down your naughty bits, don’t fly.” And I would agree with that if I felt like all these invasive efforts actually prevented nefarious deeds — or even if those efforts were focused on suspicious looking individuals. But 10-year-olds and old ladies? C’mon! These airport security measures are just illogical and expensive flash without substance. Back off, TSA.