Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Clearer Picture Maybe

Over at The American Spectator, Bob Tyrrell is at least one conservative who's taking issue with all the brouhaha  surrounding the Transportation Security Administration's new procedures with body scanners and body searches.  He reminds his readers that we are in fact still at war and that much of the scandal is DrudgeReport-manufactured anyway.

While there's some truth in what he writes, he does reach a bit when he compares our situation and our response to it with the Israelis.  From what I gather, the Israelis do not use the scanner, and perform body searches only when they're indicated.  (More about that in a moment.)

I think what's happening is not so much a national re-assertion of constitutional rights as the government crosses some invisible line.  Nor is it even an expression of collective anger caused by an unfortunate coincidence of TSA errors and abuses.  Rather, it's simply an eruption of pent-up frustration.

As a function of the living I make, I fly a great deal, far more than the average American.  Just last week, as I went through the security line at a major US international airport, for the first time in many years, I had to remove my belt.  This past spring, as my wife and I left for a vacation, we had to purchase at the airport one-quart clear plastic bags in order to display our toiletries to the TSA inspectors.  The one-gallon clear plastic bags we had brought for that purpose, and had used before on previous trips, were no longer acceptable.  To make matters worse, not once since that episode have I ever been required to show my shaving cream, cologne, etc., in any bag, of any size.

The frustration is this:  Everything about the government's handling of airport and airline security feels (pardon the pun) arbitrary and capricious.  As such, it comes to appear as little more than an opportunity for the abuse of power, if not by "Big Sis", Secretary Janet Napolitano herself, then at least by some petty entrepreneur from your local TSA.  (How do those supposedly immediately-erased, nearly-naked pictures make it to Drudge anyway?)

And even if the arbitrary and capricious nature of the regulations is not an occasion for abuse, it at least communicates to us all a lack of seriousness.  First, if the policies can change from airport to airport, and even at the same airport, from day to day, then skepticism is in order.

Secondly, and more importantly, the substance of many, if not all, of those policies seem chiefly to be the product of the unwritten codes of Political Correctness.  God forbid we target for particular scrutiny young, middle-eastern, Muslim men.  You know, the profile of nearly every known anti-American terrorist for the last quarter-century.  Profiling of that sort is precisely what the Israelis do and largely explains why their population may be less inclined to grumble.  So long as we persist, against all common sense, in the body-scanning and frisking of grandmas, nuns, and little girls, outbursts of frustration, like the one we're witnessing now, will continue.

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