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I read an enjoyable, descriptive article today in The Wall Street Journal by Peggy Noonan-one of my favorite writers.  I wrote an abstract for it on Brijit, but alas, it was not the chosen one for today.  I will include it here:

Barefoot, carrying a rubber tub, and exiting a magnetometer, Americans are continually humiliated and harassed in busy airports, as they travel from coast to coast. Middle aged women are ordered into spread eagle stances, grannies are eyed suspiciously, and children are taken from their mommies–all in the name of security. And everyone has the right (in this land of opportunity) to be equally shamed. Noonan paints the perfect picture of the demoralization of our society. At Gate 14, not one weary traveler cares who won the Pennsylvania primaries, because they are convinced that no one can make their lives better.

Here’s the link to Peggy’s article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120906741679842493.html?mod=psp_editors_picks

Sad, but true commentary. All of us want airline travel to be safe. There’s no question about that, but we never bargained for a lifetime of total humiliation. The TSA has workers that have let a little power go their head.

Several years ago, I was traveling home from my father’s funeral in South Carolina, with my husband. We checked our bags, as usual, and then abruptly I heard my name being called over the loud speaker. My husband and I looked at each other with a questioning dread, and went straight to the counter. I identified myself, and then asked what was wrong. The most rude, abrasive man that I have ever met, dismissed my questions, and told me to get my arms off of his counter! I could hardly believe this. They would not tell me anything, and they would not let me sit down. They then proceeded to question me publicly about all the medications that I was taking. I tried to answer calmly, but was disgusted that all the passengers in line around me were able to hear my medical history. At any rate, the persistent rudeness caused me to cry. I watched as they rummaged madly through my carefully packed luggage, and I just could not imagine what had triggered all this. (My greatest crime was clean underwear.)

It turns out that the machine they run the luggage through, had pinpointed my suitcase for explosives! I almost passed out right there. They questioned where my luggage had been, and what my travel history had been. With tears in my eyes, I explained that I had just attended my father’s funeral, and was grieving. I told them that I had purchased the luggage at T. J. Maxx, before leaving home, and that it went through airport security just fine on the way to the funeral. My husband was afraid they might arrest me, and encouraged me to keep my emotions under control. I did, though I felt very violated, and couldn’t understand how a thing like this could happen. I was now a terrorist on the way home from my father’s funeral. Eventually, (a long eventually) they let us through, with no explanation of what had just happened, or why I was now allowed to pass through security. I sat at a table trying to eat, as we waited on our boarding time, and all I could do was cry. I was already depressed about my father’s death, and now I was embarrassed and confused. A friend of mine, now in the military, who works in the EOD (explosive ordinance) field,  told me that those machines are always giving false positives for explosives, and that they are not at all accurate. At any rate, when I finally arrived home in our small beach town, I returned the luggage (along with sharing my accused terrorist story), and the store obliged me with a refund. I did not however, make an exchange, as I was rather “gun shy” (excuse the pun) at this point. To this day, I have no idea what could have caused the machine to go off, and apparently neither did the TSA. However, they did not apologize or explain anything.  They treated me like a common criminal even when they decided to let me go on through security. I did write a letter of complaint, and received a letter in return. Nothing spectacular though, as the TSA receives numerous complaints daily, and it was more or less a “form letter” response.

This nightmare, or a similar one, occurs often these days. Most Americans are more than willing to endure a certain amount of indignities for safety, and we understand the need for hyper-vigilance. I am more than happy to cooperate with any needed procedures. I once offered to remove my wig (in public) when my hair clips set off the dreaded machine.  (Something most women wouldn’t do for any amount of money.)  So I am very accommodating! All I am objecting to is the  rudeness, and abuse of power, that some of the TSA workers exhibit. It seems that they fail to understand, that most of us are just normal people, trying to make the journeys of life, and are already under a fair amount of stress.

So I can really relate to Peggy Noonan’s article about Americans with glazed eyes, and fixed stares, resigned to being treated worse than cattle, and suspiciously regarded as terrorists in every airport in the U. S.  I’m all for security, but please, how about security with a heart (and a brain)?…

 Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

 

 

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