By Jason Menard
In general, I prefer my columns and opinions to be visceral. I don’t spend a lot of time refining or re-writing them, as I don’t want to dilute the emotion or the opinion. What you get is me, essentially unfiltered.
I was ready to go off on today’s moronic protest in the U.S. against the TSA and its overaggressive safety measures. I still will, but my issues with the protest – and the fact that its instigator was not even flying himself today – has been tempered by the public molestation of a 15-year-old girl in Sudbury.
I’m OK with the concept of body searches or strip searches prior to flying, if warranted. I’m not OK with them being a routine part of the screening process – and I’m disgusted that this poor girl, who could have been my daughter or yours, was subjected to humiliation and violation in clear view of others.
Whether it’s this weekend’s on point Saturday Night Live sketch or any other satirical take on air traffic security, the aggressive pat-downs have provided plenty of comedic fodder. Unfortunately, what happened to this poor girl is just not funny. This is not a time for laughter; it’s a time for anger.
There is a screening process. When you fly, you go through the scanners and the wand, your bags go through a separate scanner. If you make the machine beep, then you have to go through some additional scanning. Fine.
And if you choose to be belligerent and refuse the scan, then by all rights you should be subject to whatever additional screening procedures are available. The end goal of this all is safety. If we all work together, then the process can go smoothly.
However, what happened in Sudbury, if the report is accurate, is completely wrong. From what it sounds like, these people were not causing a problem, they were not being belligerent, and respectfully asked for a little human decency – privacy. They were ignored and that’s why I chose the word molested above. This girl deserves more than an apology – she deserves free flights for life, should she ever choose to fly again.
I don’t like to fly. I don’t believe in it. I know there’s very solid science behind why gravity will pull me crashing back to the Earth, but will completely ignore a massive metal object containing hundreds just like me. But it doesn’t mean I have to like it. I fly only when necessary. And I’m all in favour of any procedures designed to make the process safer.
But are we really any safer today than we were prior to the September 11th attacks that precipitated these increased security measures. These new procedures that we’ve had to accept over the years, such as limiting the size of our shampoo bottles, not allowing you to carry nail clippers, and the increasingly elaborate security checks – do they actually do anything?
Realistically, no. But it’s all wonderfully choreographed and it’s a theatrical production designed to give passengers the illusion that something’s being done. For many that’s enough.
Unfortunately, it’s not. Like drug cheats in sports, I fear that terrorists hell-bent on causing havok in the name of their cause will remain one step ahead of those committed to preventing those same actions. Yes, we’re better able to prevent in-air attacks — but chances are the bad guys have moved on to the next modus operandi.
Do I believe that terrorism is a threat? Sure. I don’t think it’s as pervasive as some of our neighbours to the south would like to think, but I believe it’s there. I also believe that it’s more likely not to occur on a plane in the future. Dirty bombs, suicide bombers, and acts like that are more likely in this world. And, really, how can we prevent those?
Fear is a powerful ally. Fear motivates many of us to relinquish basic civil liberties that we take for granted. Many are willing to barter a measure of their privacy in return for an increased feeling of security. Really, are we any safer for these actions? Probably not. But we’ve seen the creation of yet another victim thanks to an overzealous screener.
Some will blame the terrorists for what happened to this girl. After all, if it was not for them, these measures would not have to be put into place, they’ll argue. Others will say that the terrorists have won by creating an environment of fear in which many of us choose to live.
All I know is that this is too much. Something has to be done and some semblance of common sense has to return to the airports of North America. Do I think that means we should intentionally delay the boarding process in an attempt to mess up the system? No, of course not. But we have to do something and we have to do it through the right channels.
The discussion about the nonsensical nature of protests designed only to annoy those from whom you’re trying to curry favour will have to wait for another day. Instead today must be about an action that’s proven why sometimes protests are necessary. And to shine a light on something that can’t be explained or forgiven — the public molestation of a 15-year-old girl.
In attempting to prevent a terrorist act, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority created one in Sudbury. And while the burden of it was inflicted upon one innocent 15-year-old girl, we all have been victimized to some degree.