Classic Bob – Do you Feel Safer?

Someone asked me to start posting some of my original – Classic Bob – email rants which inspired this blog.  Here’s one first prepared June 28, 2011, in response to yet another story of US TSA officers harassing innocent air travellers:

Here’s the story of the TSA standing behind it’s security officer who forced a 95-year  old woman to remove her adult diaper so that they could check her.

Where to begin?

On one hand, it doesn’t come as surprise.  Any government agency that’s willing to have its security staff grope children, probably isn’t going to feel shabby about strip searching a 95 year-old cancer patient.

Still, it amazes me is that they manage to find people who are willing to do these jobs.  I mean, I can’t speak for any of you, but if you sent me out there to grope children and strip search elderly woman for $20 bucks an hour, I’d tell you to fuck yourself.  And not just because it’s creepy or icky, but because it’s just wrong.  No self-respecting person with any sense of decency would do something like that.  Fortunately for the TSA, there appears to be an abundance of people with low self-esteem and an impaired sense of decency.   Look, I know times are tough, but honestly, there has to be a better way to make a living.  I mean, doling out “knee-knockers” in a back-alley probably doesn’t come with a lot of job satisfaction (I’m guessing here), but at least you leave your clients happy.

But there’s another element to this.  How did Hannah Arendt describe this phenomenon?  The “banality of evil”?  Ok, she was talking about Nazis, but here we see the same thing, albeit on a more mundane scale.  We’ve got a collection of people working at airport security who, in their off-time,  you might sit next to in a bar, at a Jays game or in church (not that any of my readers are likely to be found in that last locale) and find them to be otherwise normal people.  You’d have no idea that these are people who spend their days terrorizing small children or humiliating and degrading geriatrics.   And while I’d like to think that these guys feel so terrible about their jobs that they drink themselves to sleep at night with a bottle of Jack, I doubt it.  They probably don’t even realize that what they’re doing is wrong.

Setting arise the morality of it all, what a complete fucking waste of time.  Is there anyone with a functioning brain stem who thinks that the 95-year-old woman in the adult diapers is a possible terrorist? I’ll be the first to concede that there is a logic to the theory that says “if we search everybody randomly, terrorists won’t be able to avoid detection by using members of “low-risk” groups (i.e., children, the elderly)”.  Mind you, there’s also logic that says terrorists won’t be able to avoid detection if we simply shoot all airline passengers, but I digress. In any event, let’s face it, the TSA only adopts this policy because they’re afraid of being accused of racial profiling. What does it say about modern sensibilities that the TSA would rather molest children and the elderly than be accused of being racist.  Personally, I’m willing to live with the risk that I might be blown-up by a 95-year-old woman from Detroit or by a 6-year-old from New Orleans (which, I’m pretty sure, is equal to exactly zero in both cases).

Moreover, there are practical problems with this “logic”.  Searching everyone randomly requires immense resources ( to say nothing of the significant costs in terms of money, time and stress imposed on the passengers involved) which could be better used somewhere else.  Since 99.9999% of “everybody” aren’t terrorists, you’re inconveniencing a lot innocent people for little gain.   Frankly, I’d rather take the billions of dollars being paid to tens of thousands of dimwits in airports across North America to make me take off my shoes and to molest children and the elderly and spend it on a few hundred intelligence officers with some expertise in Islam or fluency in Arabic (or whatever cause/language the terrorist-du-jour favors) to detect possible terrorist attacks.  Or maybe use it to hire a few thousand more air marshals who would be better placed stop attacks if someone does slip through security.

I mean, let’s be honest about this, the charade of security at most airports isn’t going to stop a committed terrorist.  Most of the “security” personal at airports are there for show.  Let’s face it, we’re not talking about a collection of keen minds with expertise in human psychology and the art of lying, people who can spot a terrorist from a mile away.  We’re talking about a collection of people who, were it not for airport security, would be working as security guards at Freshco (where they would, no doubt, fail to stop kids from shoplifting watermelons).  As a country, we’re spending a ton of money hiring some of our finest ordinary minds to provide airport security.  Don’t you feel safer?

Mind you, I’m a little sensitive about this these days, since we’re taking the kids on vacation next month. Because there’s no way I’m going into a man-sized microwave to let them take dirty pictures of me, I’m tempted to  show up at the airport wearing nothing more than a Borat-esque thong and inviting the guard to pat me down (“No, no, you don’t need a male officers, please feel free to pat me down yourself, ma’am.  Oh yeah, that’s good, right there.  Yes, that bulge is abnormally large”).  I think my wife might object.  But unless they’re really keen for me to call 911 then and there, they’d better keep their hands off my kids!

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