Op-Ed: Can the TSA End the Culture War?
A lot of bandwidth has been given to the Culture War over the past few years. Pundits divide the country into red and blue, by state and by district, urban versus rural, argumentum ad nauseam. There is a lot of truth to the meme: the demographics of the country are changing, technology has had a profound impact on the culture with unknown results, and economic instability often leads to social conservatism.
But recently the Obama administration found a way to bridge the divide via an unexpected, but wildly successful method.
I’m speaking, of course, of the TSA. Or, more accurately, the Department of Homeland Security’s directive that TSA agents will either x-ray everyone who takes a commercial flight in the U.S. or, quite literally, feel them up. Liberal or conservative, Tea-Party or tin-hat, the entire American political spectrum seems to feel that the new airport security procedures are invasive, pointless, and a violation of our civil liberties.
But reading the online chatter about the new procedures, I found myself feeling less outraged at the procedures themselves, than amused–even a little smug–at the outrage of others. I’ve been increasingly outraged at airport security procedures since 9/11. Personally, I don’t fly anymore, if I can possibly avoid it. TSA agents invariably ask me to step aside from security for a wanding, a pat-down, and a quick peek at my panties. Not an auspicious way to begin a trip, unless preceded by candlelight and a nice dinner.
I wasn’t quite sure what I thought about the current TSA kerfuffle until I saw this video from the New Jersey state legislature:
Viewing the video, I finally identified my feelings: Schadenfreude. That’s a whole bunch of white people all het up about unwarranted search, invasion of privacy, and violation of their civil liberties, for (gasp) no good reason. How ‘bout that? By our government? Why, I’ve never heard of such a thing!
The Department of Homeland Security has offered Americans a teachable moment. And the lesson to be learned is that the civil liberties of millions of Americans are violated as a matter of course, by federal, state, and local government, every day. Every anti-Sharia law, every marriage protection act, every anti-immigrant documentation requirement is a violation of our civil liberties, and such infringements have a demonstrable “trickle-up” effect.
Progressive activists often use the “it could be you next” prognostication of doom, but rarely does one get to see prophecy fulfilled on such a large scale so quickly. Men of color are already expected and required to stand in a humiliating posture and let people in uniform “touch [their] junk” or risk getting tazed, or worse. Women are regularly escorted from public venues for the “crime” of being alone, because a woman on her own must be a prostitute. LGBTs are assumed to be criminals, unfit to raise or teach children, undeserving of legal recognition.
I’ve been waiting for someone to point the finger and hoot “told ya so! told ya so!” for a couple of days now, but it hasn’t happened, so I’m taking it upon myself. The Department of Homeland Security has invited middle-class, straight, white America–and their children–to join the systemic harassment fun. Everyone is a criminal until proven otherwise, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability, or age. Is this the egalitarian, “post-racial, post-feminist” America we want?
What will we, as a nation, learn from this? I would like it very much if we learn that everyone has always had civil liberties, and that those liberties must be protected equally, with the same commitment and ferocity, or we all lose. As the gentleman from New Jersey notes, “This must stop.” I quite agree, and it’s long past time.