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Fear and loathing at the airport

I spend a lot of time in the air, and accordingly I am forced on an almost weekly basis to endure the indignity of airport security. Something is seriously wrong in America when we force our citizens to be strip searched in public and have their shampoo sniffed by twelve-dollar-an-hour faux security guards. A few weeks ago I watched as TSAs forced a hundred-year-old woman in a wheelchair to do a perp walk through an electronic blow machine, apparently convinced that she was hiding a vial of TNT somewhere up her ancient rectum.

I cringe when I see uniformed strangers hold up plastic bags full of very private stuff for the entire airport to peruse. “Sir, in the future you might want to buy condoms wrapped in plastic as opposed to foil so they don’t set off our metal detectors.” “Sorry Ma’am, you can’t bring that 6 ounce bottle of laxative on the plane – 3 ounces is the limit.” The piece of shrapnel the vet has in his left buttock as a souvenir of his freedom fight now guarantees he’ll get “wanded down” and probably miss his flight.

And who is policing the police? Earlier this year I had an expensive camera stolen out of my checked luggage, most likely by the same people that left the “your luggage has been inspected” coupon tucked into my bag. I can’t help but picture an enormous hairy man deep in the bowels of the airport rummaging through my wife’s luggage, gleefully inspecting her panties.

While I am all for keeping Americans safe, I think common sense and intelligence should trump mindless bureaucratic process. Like the Iraq war, our ridiculous airport security smacks of an expensive knee-jerk reaction that doesn’t solve the problem. The terrorists that brought down the towers went to flight school and spent years in preparation before attacking us. I doubt a serious terrorist would be dissuaded from hijacking a flight because he can’t bring a shoe bomb on board or carry napalm in containers larger than 3 ounces. Despite the ban on sharp objects on planes, I recently discovered that for the last several years I had inadvertently been carrying a cigar cutter on every flight. The razor sharp instrument, which is just as lethal as the famous box cutters, had been buried in a folds of my computer case and had gone undetected through at least a hundred security checks.

And as a businessman, I can’t help but marvel at the inefficiencies of airport security. Why space inspectors twelve feet apart (well within each other’s siteline) and have them both ask for my photo ID? Could I have somehow morphed into a terrorist, like some kind of Al Qaeda shape-shifter, during those three or four steps?

September 11th ushered in major changes for this country, almost all of them negative, but one of it’s saddest impacts on America is the irrational fear in has infused on our society. While I certainly don’t negate the danger that terrorists pose, they have already won if we let them transform our way of life into a police state in the name of security.

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