My friend John Stonestreet is the President of the Colson Center. On the way back from the annual Wilberforce Forum in Washington, D.C., TSA agents notified him that his 13-year old daughter was randomly selected for a waist to thigh pat down. John usually flies without his daughters. And he flies by himself enough to know that being selected for a “waist to thigh pat down” means a government agent is about to touch your genitals. When informed of the random selection of his daughter, John let TSA agents know there was no way he was allowing them to do that to her. Thankfully, in clear contravention of the policy, a sympathetic agent let John take his daughter’s place.
Although disaster was averted in this case, it is time for a frank discussion of what nearly happened in that D.C. airport. If that scene seems even remotely acceptable to you then please consider the following thought experiment:
Your thirteen-year old daughter attends a public school. On her way into the school she passes through a metal detector and it goes off. Public school officials seek to perform a waist to thigh pat down during which they will touch her genitals to see whether she is hiding a knife or a gun in her underwear. Would you tolerate it?
I suspect that most of my readers immediately grasp the point. Few of us would be comfortable with adult government officials groping around the genitalia of our teenaged children even in the presence of probable cause. So the real question is why we tolerate TSA doing it to children in the absence of probable cause.
After the incident in D.C., John wanted to know more about the TSA waist to knee search policy, which shockingly defines 12-year olds as adults and therefore eligible for the random below-the-belt groping. Hence, John submitted questions to the TSA website. The response of the agency was mind-numbingly arrogant. Rather than answering his questions, TSA simply emailed John a copy of the policy – doing it from a “do not reply” email address to boot.
To its credit, TSA does provide assurance that someone of the same sex will search your child. But I am not certain I would rather risk having my teenaged daughter molested by a lesbian than by a male heterosexual pedophile.
Nonetheless, it is indeed interesting that the TSA apparently accepts the gender binary. I wonder whether the TSA has considered that some of their passengers reject it. After all, their policies do say, “TSA recognizes the concerns that some members of the transgender community may have with certain security screening procedures at the nation’s security checkpoints.” Of course, I’m just looking forward to seeing a notice that says, “TSA recognizes the concerns that some members of decent society may have with government agents touching their children’s genitals.”
To understand the broader implications of all this, we must first recognize that tyranny often comes from choosing safety over freedom. But we are not even getting safety from the TSA. What we are getting at best is what many researchers describe as mere Security Theater. In other words, we invest in measures intended to provide feelings of security while doing little to achieve it. And the reason why we are doing little to achieve security is that America is too busy looking for stuff while other countries such as Israel are looking for people.
So why do we look for stuff and not people? As John Stonestreet points out, it is a worldview issue. America is slowly becoming an evil-denying society. If you have not noticed this then you have not been paying any attention to the gun control debate, which has accelerated in the wake of recent high school shootings. Notice the parallels:
When we examine school shootings, we ask, “Are guns evil or are people evil?”
When we examine terrorism, we ask “Are bombs evil or are terrorists evil?”
Increasingly, America is answering these questions the wrong way because we are being held captive to political correctness. We scoff at the idea that people are evil in order to avoid being politically incorrect. That means we default to the idea that only stuff is evil. In the end, we refuse to profile young Middle Eastern men. We could never imagine living in a society that would be insensitive to members of a marginalized culture. That would be problematic for our national self-esteem.
Eventually, we must disabuse ourselves of the notion that we live in a world of problems and solutions. Instead, we must accept that the world is governed by trade offs. Living in a society that tolerates profiling at airports is not ideal. But it beats living in a society that tolerates government-sponsored child molestation.