We stood on the non-secure side of the glass watching our son go through airport security and got a sudden glimpse of just how close to dystopia we are getting.
A starving artist from Baltimore, he had come to visit, primarily so he could see his 100 year old grandmother who is starting to fray around the edges. We spent the few days he was home visiting family, talking about his plans to get his EMT certificate so he could “do work which is helpful,” and discussing logistics for the upcoming holidays. Each morning and evening he helped care for the horses and chickens on our farm.
For the flight back, he opted out of the body scanner. So has all of Europe. We knew he would then get the pat down. It was public and thorough and involved two TSA agents, a woman who chatted with him and a beefy fellow who did the pat down. He remained polite. The beefy guy emptied his back pack, swabbed each item and sent the wipes through a machine which I guess was looking for explosives. They had him remove his shoes again and they swabbed those. All of this was taking a long time and we began to worry he might miss his flight. When they finally released him, we called his cell phone. He said they did not like his key chain, that it could be used as a weapon. We decided to get coffee and wait until his plane had cleared the airport. We were upset.
We watched as other passengers obediently got in line and went through the body scanner. Ciphers. One of them got pulled out and was subjected to the same treatment as our son. At first he was smiling, like this is all a joke, right? By the end it was obvious he was furious. We saw a third man pulled aside. He was angry from the start. These two and our son all wore striped shirts. Is this how they avoid charges of racial profiling, randomly checking based on some obscure characteristic? We watched everyone empty their pockets, remove their shoes and go through the scanners without a peep. We watched the TSA agents remain grim as if they were herding cattle to slaughter. The last time I flew, I went through the scanner and still got pulled out for a pat down, no explanation. We have to pick our battles, and perhaps the airport is not the place. When you go through the doors of an airport in the United States, leave your humanity, dignity and kindness behind. This is not the place for them.