Thursday, November 18, 2010

Groping For Consensus

There's a real irony in the outcry over the new TSA body-scanning, junk-touching protocols.
Let's sum up the conservative (and by extension, the purported American) mindset here:
Invading a sovereign people innocent of any wrongdoing against us? Well, that's OK, I suppose.
Bombing the ever-living fuck out of civilians in the name of "fighting terorrism"? Cool. No problem.
Waterboarding and torturing enemy combatants? Bring it on!
Raise taxes a fraction just to pay for all this? NO!
The left opposed all those, of course, and I'm proud to have been among that number.
I part company on this one, however. Perhaps it's the libertarian streak in me.
Flying an airline is a voluntary activity, driven by private enterprise. You pays your money, you takes your chances. The alternative is to let the airlines decide what security protocols to insitute, which means things will range from "Why, yes, Mr. bin Laden, we do in fact have a seat for you!" to "I don't care if you're the President and you're on Air Force One! It's in our terminal, so you'll be cavity searched!"
No one's made the case for any alternatives, although personally I'd prefer the Israeli system, and frankly, I can't see why it hasn't been adopted here. It's efficient and much less intrusive than the American system.
Of course, it would cost real money and involve trained personnel who would require higher pay and benefits and all that goes with that. We could hire Blackwater (or Xie or whatever nym it goes by this week).
But I digress...
Maybe I'm just more comfortable about my naked body. Maybe it's that I ride the NYC subway on a daily basis, so I'm used to having my junk groped, or at least rubbed.
Maybe I'm just an adult. I don't know.
All I do know is, apart from the radiation risk (in my case, a real one, as I've had more X-rays than you've had hot meals, and have already developed at least one cancer), I have no problem with this.
I purchase my ticket to fly to my destination with the understanding that, indeed, I will get there. At 35,000 feet, I do not want any preventable risk. I see enough human error on a daily basis to know my chances are already less than 100% but they'd be lower if I was to drive to where I needed to be.
Especially if I had to cross an ocean!
We just went through eight years of the most egoistically driven administration since, well, Reagan/Bush. In that time, we drove up our national debt six trillion dollars, almost doubling it. We weren't asked to make sacrifices, like the US did in World War II. Instead, we were warned to go shopping, or the terrorists win. We were coaxed into borrowing more money than we could possibly pay back in two lifetimes to buy houses that were way too big for our families. All this time, it was Christmas every day, as companies came out with new toys and gizmos that barely improved our lives.
And we spent. And spent. And spent. And the bill is coming due, right at the time that we can least afford to take our eye off the ball. The national government is in a real struggle between the haves and have-mores, while we the people dread going to the mailbox, not because of anthrax but because of Amex.
And we all get angry at a government that can do this to us, and in the next breath mock a government that can't get its act together over something as simple as the Zadroga bill. You can't have it both ways. Either the government is this well-oiled conspiratorial dictatorship (which I believe is an aspiration, but not a reality) or an incompetent boobish puddle of contradictions (more likely).
As to the National Opt-Out Day, I will be watching the news to see how it breaks. My guess is that there will be a few handfuls of people who will resist, but eventually, the added delay and the realization that it's the single biggest traffic day of the year will either cause fistfights among the would-be passengers, or force most people to chicken out of opting out.
For me, well, I won't be flying next week, but I will be and soon, and I want that TSA agent touching my junk, because for the first time since 9/11, that man will be as uncomfortable screening me as I am being screened.
As Lewis Black put it so succinctly this week on The Daily Show: "I get to fly five hours AND someone's touching my balls?"
Where do I sign up?

UPDATE: Megan McArdle gives libertarianism a bad name by being an asshole.