December 4, 2010

“We prefer to do things comfortably,” said the Controller.

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

“In fact,” said Mustapha Mond, “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”

“All right then,” said the Savage defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”

– A Brave New World

On the political spectrum, I suppose I would fall under the mantle of Libertarian-Lite.  All of the distrust of the government, only half the crazy.  Therefore when the TSA announced that they’d be utilizing Scanning Machines and invasive pat downs to beef up airport security, I was mildly outraged.

As I saw it, the mere notion of these searches was a breech of our constitutional right protecting us from illegal search and seizure.  I’m just trying to fly to Texas and I have to stand with my hands on the wall, feet spread apart so you can dose me with just enough radiation to get a peek at my privates?  No way.  I’d love to boycott the entire thing, but it just isn’t practical to drive my Mazda to San Antonio for a 3 hour meeting.

Someone said to me, “Well what’s the difference?  I’m all for anything that makes me safer.  They have to do those searches at airports.  Remember the underpants bomber?”  This argument just doesn’t hold up for me.  He had a bomb in his underpants so now they need to check our underpants?  You are always going to have psychopaths slip through the cracks no matter what.  Eventually, there will be some terrorist lunatic who figures out how to put explosives in his blood stream.  If that happens, what will security in the airport look like in the future?  “Ma’am if you could just step to the side and empty all of your blood into that container, we can process it and move along.”

All of normal human functioning depends on the assumption that your fellow man is not a psychopath.  When you order a pizza, you have to trust that the cook didn’t sneeze on the pepperoni.  If you are driving on a highway, you have to trust that all of the other drivers aren’t going to drift into oncoming traffic while taking their eye off the road to update their Twitter feed.  When you hire a babysitter, you have to make the assumption that he/she is not a closet sado-masochist making $5 an hour.   And when you make those assumptions, 99.999% of the time, you are correct.  That’s why society works.  An assumption of trust in your fellow man.  If we become afraid of one another then we will be paralyzed.  Fear is the mind killer.

So as I sat in line at the Pittsburgh airport this past Monday, I realized the hypocrisy.  My irritation at the long security line turned into philosophical rage.  This was an encroachment on all mankind!  An indictment that some unnamed entity stamped on our brains.  “You can’t trust each other.  You are all potential criminals.”  The ominous scanning machine was just in front of me.  The TSA agents with their blue dishwashing gloves looked out over the crowd, ready to scrub our privacy away.  This was tyranny.

As the line moved up, I was ready to take a stand.  Ready to make a scene and produce an eloquent monologue that would galvanize the crowd into revolt.  They say the French Revolution started the same way.

Then I saw a guy in line that had really shifty eyes.  He looked like he was up to something.  Something sinister.

OK.  They should probably scan him.  But just him.

Then there was this kid in front of me with a weird-shaped backpack.

They should scan him too.

An old woman in a wheel chair.

Yep. Scan her.  Scan her wheel chair while you’re at it. That’s just where we’d least suspect it.

You know what?  Forget my rights.  Just scan everyone and get it over with.  Make me comfortable TSA.  Make me happy.

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