After watching all the chatter on Twitter I feet compelled to articulate my feelings on the situation.
What is the situation you ask? Well the scanners (which are in airports around the world or will be soon) and pat-downs that people are experiencing at airports in the US.
I should state that I am quite liberal in my politics but I worked for a government organization that is part of Public Safety here in Canada. So rules and regulations no matter how seemingly absurd were part of the job. I applied and enforced them daily for 6.5 years. So my thoughts on national security, travel and the movement of people and goods can sometimes seem in conflict with my liberal beliefs.
In the almost ten years since September 11th I’ve been dismayed at how fear of the Other, of “the Unknown” has seen some rather insane laws and government regulations enacted around the world. I’ve also seen so much misinformation and rhetoric about these same laws that people are confused or annoyed or just completely dismiss them.
The imposition of passports to travel between Canada and the US is one I disagree with firmly for economic reasons on both sides of the border. The poor implementation and ignorance of the general population on both sides resulted in a declined in visits to both countries and a loss of tourism dollars. That’s just a small example of the new normal.
Something travellers often forget, even travelling within their own country is that air travel is a privilege and not a right. Your passport regardless of the country that issued it does not mean you have the right to travel on a plane. Sorry it doesn’t matter that you paid for the ticket. It doesn’t matter that you have shown up and offered to subject yourself to the kind of search you “want” to receive. That is not part of the deal when flying. I defy anyone to find a regulation or law that enshrines your right to fly, it just does not exist.
So when faced with the option to go through a scanner that will in essence produce images of your naked body or subject yourself to a pat down, understand that if you want to fly those are the choices. I am not thrilled about the creation of naked images of me out there but know what, I’ve posted more revealing ones online (many other people have too). Until the regulations are changed it’s one or the other. Is it right – nope. Will it change – not any time soon it seems. So you can protest, film, write a petition if it makes you feel better but don’t act appalled when you don’t get on the plane.
Where were you when there was discussion about implementing these particular security measures? Were you protesting? Did you lobby your governmental officials? Did you try to start a revolution? No, you probably did nothing. Maybe you didn’t even know about them – sorry ignorance of the law doesn’t excuse you on this one.
As a traveller I was beside myself the first time I had to take my shoes off in the airport in the US because I hate exposing my feet in any way but I wanted to get on my plane so off came my shoes because I wanted to get home. That’s a choice I make. The last time I flew I made sure I was only travelling with small bottles of liquids sealed in a Ziploc bag. That’s a choice I make because I wanted to go on vacation.
As a traveller you do not get to dictate the terms to the government or security officials that is how you end up on lists and government lists have long memories.
If you do not want to be scanned or pat down may I suggest the train or a car?
Is it inconvenient? Absolutely. Does the TSA pat down violate the passenger? Yes. I don’t really want someone’s hand wedged between my legs and under my breasts but again if I want to get on the plane – that’s what I have to subject myself to. I’m sure it must feel like a violation but they are making every reasonable effort not to “molest” or “grope” people’s junk. Have you ever used the back of your hand to feel someone up? Give it a try. Could you grab a boob or a nut that way? Probably not but you might be able to feel if someone has something strapped to their leg or in their underwear. Remember when you are filming the TSA or CATSA or CBSA or CBP or any other government official who is doing a job they may not agree with and certainly aren’t enjoying that you had a choice.
Yes, there are always people in positions of power who abuse it and take great pleasure in making people miserable but if you go out of your way to be difficult, you will see a change in attitude in even the most pleasant public servant. In particular when it comes to those charged with security. From experience I can tell you that the first signs of resistance, attitude, challenging the authority I was acting on and I upped the intensity of what I was doing – if you have nothing to hide no reason to resist or “avoid” as the people’s “hero” John Tyner did.
I guess my issue ultimately is this: people who object to these security measures, your issue is not with the TSA agent who has to look at your scans or the one who has to pat you down, it’s with the officials who enacted these measures. So to people participating in National Opt-Out Day think about who you are hurting and what you will really accomplish – missing your flight, causing others to miss theirs, making employees’ lives a living nightmare on what is already a busy day. Is that going to bring about the change you desire? Doubtful.