The "Numbing Down" of America

As I sit in the terminal at JFK Airport in New York awaiting the final flight of my trip from Los Angeles' LAX, airport security is at the top of my mind. To the best of my knowledge, today poses no bigger threat to national security than yesterday did. Yet as I proceeded on a shuttle bus from the off-site car rental facility to the Delta terminal, traffic was piled up near the big, white L A X letters announcing the entrance to the airport. As we crept to the turn-in, there were several tent-like structures composing a security checkpoint with uniformed police somehow choosing which vehicles would pass and which would be stopped for inspection.

We were waved through Checkpoint Charlie. As the bus pulled up in front of the terminal, there were several TSA personnel milling about outside. I went in and retrieved my boarding pass from the convenient self-service kiosk. Proceeding on, there were only three people ahead of me in the security line. As the initial TSA person tried using a faulty UV flashlight to look at my drivers license (does anyone have a clue what they are looking for with this device?), he got a working light, scribbled something on my boarding pass and cheerfully asked me to proceed to screening.

I picked the shortest of the two lines, dutifully removed my shoes, pulled my laptop from my bag and placed all metal objects in a pocket of my messenger bag and put them all in bins on the conveyor belt to be scanned. As I proceeded to pass thru the metal detector archway, the next TSA asked me to remove my belt. I never remove my belt or wallet because these do not set off the equipment. At this point, I knew what was next...

"Please stand between those two walls, place your feet in the squares and hold your arms over your head for a moment."

"This is the X-Ray machine isn't it?" I asked.

"What have you heard about it?" he replied.

I paused, thinking of an answer that would not put the rest of my trip in jeopardy.

"Probably nothing good, I suppose" was his response to my silence, to which I replied, "Yep"

After they took my picture, I stood there in the Retract-A-Band cordoned area for a few moments waiting for the all clear signal, he asked if I had a wallet. Yes I did. He had me remove it and then said that he would have to pass his hand over my buttock to check for something. He patted my ass with the back of his blue plastic-gloved hand and then allowed me pick up my bags, my shoes, my belt and my dignity from the conveyor rollers.

I stood there, re-dressing, mumbling various epithets under my breath in an imperceptible volume. I gathered my stuff and headed to my gate. As we were milling about, jockeying for position to get on the plane as early as possible so that we would have a fighting chance of being able to shove our carry-on bag into an available overhead bin, the PA announced that TSA would be doing random inspections and to have our ID out and ready.

Finally, Group 4 was called and as we shuffled past the boarding pass scanner, I was asked by a large TSA woman if I would mind opening my bag for her to look into it. Did I mind? Did I have a choice? I received approval to proceed and as I was dragging my suitcase down the Jetway ramp, it occurred to me that we am in the middle of a massive campaign to "numb down" America. Not "dumb down", but "numb down".

Think about it. The more we see Catholic nuns being frisked by screeners, or returning troops from Afghanistan being swabbed and pulled for secondary screening because of traces of gunpowder residue on their backpacks (duhhhhhh!), the more likely we will just collectively shrug and shuffle off to whatever we were doing before we were hassled by The Man.

(The-Asterisk observation: I cannot wait for the moment that the now-government-loving left finally gets fed up with this encroachment on personal liberty and starts pushing back. It will certainly be an "All Of Me" moment. I await the convulsions with eager anticipation.)

Will all of the traveling public continue to waste untold thousands of man-hours every day, being protected against some nefarious, unstated, top secret threat? Is there actually a threat, or are we all on the receiving end of a huge, conspiratorial con job?

I am beginning to think the latter... but if there is a real and credible threat, let us all in on it. Aren't hundreds of thousands of eyes on the problem better than relying solely on cops and TSA? After all, who found and stopped the Underwear Bomber? The Shoe Bomber? Has any domestic threat since 9/11 been thwarted solely by screening at airports by TSA? (No, I am not counting finger nail clippers, pen knives removed from 85 year old WWII vets, or knitting needles from Granny's yarn bag as credible threats.)

Let's use some common sense, people!

Now... why can't I feel my fingers, my toes or my brain?


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