Friday, February 18, 2011

TSA Rituals

We Americans like to think of ourselves as pragmatic, rational, and free of superstitions. But after my recent trips through TSA checkpoints, I've come to believe otherwise. Seldom have I seen such ample evidence of superstitious behavior, rituals fueled by fear. Think of it like this:

How many of us arrive at the airport early? Anxious about travel, we appear to believe that extra time in an uncomfortable gate waiting area might somehow pay a cosmic debt that could otherwise result in flight delays or missed connections. We stand in line, sometimes for quite a long while, to ensure our safe admission to the desired and much-protected inner sanctum. We carry in our hands a small white slip of endorsement as evidence of our merit, and surrender it when requested by the gatekeepers of security. We remove our shoes in hopes of being deemed worthy of entry. We offer up our possessions on the conveyor belt of inquisition, and place all our valuables in gray tubs of scrutiny. We disrobe to the bare essentials before passing through the gate of surveillance, and submit ourselves to rituals of probing and scanning. We share in the communal retrieval of goods, and together bow in gratitude for the privilege of passing through (and to tie our shoes).

All of this, while most of us realize that new & improved "safety measures" have in fact not added any measurable security to our air travel. It would appear that instead, we find comfort in the ritualized appearance of safety, and are willing to pay our dues for the emotional comfort we find in these rites.


  1. The TSA procedures are far from adding security to our flying experience. As you said, they do nothing to ensure our safety. It is apparent that it is about control and having you submit to a series of degrading task in order for you to fly. This is a disgusting agency and for our elected officials to let it operate without boundaries is truly un-American.
    The TSA does not care one bit about your safety, as the many security holes have been pointed out repeatedly and have gone ignored.
    The TSA's only job is to keep a "secret" list of prohibited items from getting through the checkpoint, that is NOT security. That is an illusion of security to fool the sheeple into believing the are safe. You might as well just do some voodoo and claim that will keep them safe.
    Sad to say, but the only way to avoid the total nonsense at the airport is just not fly. But as the TSA moves to other areas of transportation, soon we will not be able to escape their gropes and scopes, and then it will be time to "walk like an Egyptian". Maybe then we can restore dignity and our rights as a FREE people of a FREE country.

  2. “All right, you can go,” he said, pointing me to the X-ray line. “But let this be a lesson for you.”

    This is the closing sentence in the article you referenced. The author was trying to look suspicious … nervous, no ID, fake boarding pass … and the security guy lets him through anyhow:

    “I can’t find my driver’s license,” I said. I showed him my fake boarding pass. “I need to get to Washington quickly,” I added. He asked me if I had any other identification. I showed him a credit card with my name on it, a library card, and a health-insurance card. “Nothing else?” he asked.
    “No,” I said.
    “You should really travel with a second picture ID, you know.”
    “Yes, sir,” I said.

    The rituals in our lives and in our churches had better really mean something because I’m sure nobody will be hearing the “all right, you can go” line at the pearly gates.