I do not like air travel. Airports are quite hellish; the tickets are expensive; the seats invariably too small; and the security process both far too long and insultingly ineffective at deterring even the most inept ne’er-do-wells and villains. I have generally stayed away from those places as a result, but I have had to travel by air in the past by necessity – it simply isn’t feasible to take a train across the country, or drive for five days to get to Ottawa for a three day soiree. Luckily, however, I was able to escape molestation on the part of the poorly paid security screeners. Not because I am particularly charming or innocent looking, but because I just happened to have been traveling before the introduction of sexual assault as a standard screening process.
There has been a furor in the United States over these new screening procedures, including the ‘enhanced’ pat downs and the new ‘screening’ machines, which manifest all of the pornographic possibilities that Superman’s X-Ray vision allows for. Despite assurances from political leaders and the bureaucracy of the absolute necessity of these new procedures, American air travelers have rightly begun to push back, declaring defiantly don’t touch my junk! While one would think that our national myth of reasonableness would save us from the absurdity of this security theatre, you are wrong. The same machines have been purchased at considerable cost by our federal government during a period of fiscal austerity and have already begun to be deployed in major airports, including YVR, all across the country – along with our own Canadian version of the ‘enhanced’ pat down.
Should you choose to fly in the near future, you may find yourself having to choose between being stripped and oggled by an X-Ray machine and its operators, or being groped by airport staff (who themselves do not get the same wonderful choice) in full view of the public, without due regard for basic things like sovereignty of the body or Canadian law. The bleating of the so-called security conscious, by those political figures and bureaucrats, including the Leader of the Opposition, in favour of these measures holds absolutely no water with me. If coerced touching of one’s genitalia has become the standard prerequisite for the exercise of one’s freedom of mobility, I hold the view that something has seriously got to change.
It’s not simply enough to throw up our hands and declare that such measures are necessary for whatever reason, or that by refusing or arguing against such grave invasions of personal space we are endangering the country. No, it’s time to start questioning why we need security in airports at all. Why is it that the airport has become more difficult to enter than Parliament? One might reply that there are all sorts of threats present, that there are all sorts of groups from Islamic militants to angry soccer mums who might wish to blow up a plane load of civilians or a terminal full of citizens to advance their radical, pro-soccer agenda.
Bollocks. These measures don’t serve to buttress our threatened society or our so-called democratic values, but rather, they serve to completely undermine anything of any consequence. If defending freedom means giving up freedom, let us all reject the preposterous false dilemma and demand better from our leaders. It’s not radical to not want strangers – let alone the state – touching your junk.
Let’s take back our dignity.