The TSA Will NOT Grope My Child

Nov 17

A couple of weeks ago, the TSA decided to modify their search techniques for passengers as well as airline employees.  A bomber had tried to sneak onto a plane, and even though unsuccessful in his attempt to blow up the plane, he succeeded in a major disruption of air travel weeks before the biggest travel holidays of the year.

In 1998, when I worked for an airline, employees had a street entrance to the terminals where people regularly held the ID protected doors for the people coming in after them, even if they didn’t know them.  In 2004, when I started my job as a road warrior, I used to bring a thermos of home-brewed coffee with me onto the plane.  It wasn’t until a couple of years passed that the coffee stayed home, and I got my first taste of how they inspect underwire bras.  Each of these was an annoyance, but none made me consider cutting up my frequent flier cards, or looking for a new job.

This time it’s different.  I’m pregnant, and if I travel, my screening choices are now to get a mild x-ray to my entire body (with no assurances or studies regarding the safety to the baby inside me), or to get patted down, including the possible cupping of my genitals and behind.  The eeriest part of the descriptions I’ve read concern the fact that, after feeling my genitals and breasts, they will feel my face and hair.  This one detail makes it far more intimate than what I ever even did with my OB/GYN.  Even if I agree to the x-ray, I may still get chosen for the groping.  If I refuse, and simply ask to void my plane ticket and go home, I could be detained or fined.

What infuriates me even more are the stories of this happening to children.  This video briefly shows a three-year-old girl screaming for the stranger to stop touching her thighs as her mom struggles to restrain her.  She had accidentally set off the metal detector.  And no matter how hard a parent might try to make sure their child is clear of metal, how many of us have been guilty of forgetting the clasp on the overalls or the truck they were playing with still in their pockets? Now remember, if the family had refused and had gone home, they would have been in trouble.

So, as a parent, even if you go to the airport, and pray that it doesn’t happen to your child, you risk having to explain to your child why the nice man has to cup his genitals.

If this truly was the only way possible for us to travel safely, then perhaps we leave the flights to those adults who don’t mind this treatment, and leave it to the HR departments to cope with the many employees who can no longer tolerate air travel as part of their jobs.  (If I was still in an HR department, I’d be bracing myself for the huge number of abuse survivors that are about to ask for accommodations due to their inability to go through airport security.)  Anyway, we’ll leave the airlines to those with no choice but to fly, and the rest of us will go back to living in the 50’s, when most families never even considered air travel as an option.  Or, we can turn to the examples of other countries that have been facing these challenges for decades and use their far more effective and respectful approaches.  Which, by the way, have proven to be far more effective than the shoe removal and liquid ban.

But the new regulations don’t make us safer.  Frankly, I can’t even remember how many times one of my co-workers or I cleared security with toothpaste, a juice box, or some other forbidden item in our luggage.  We can’t even enforce the regulations that are already in place!  There is talk that women wearing clothing that reflects certain religions will not have to be x-rayed, and will only have their head and neck pat down.  Apparently, it’s against that religion’s teachings for women to be seen naked in public or groped by strangers – by the way, it ain’t nuns.  I don’t care what religion is asking for the accommodation, I am angry that, as someone not of that religion, I am going to be discriminated against and treated differently.  I’m angry that my son, as a male, will also not qualify for that exemption.

There is no way for our government to guarantee our safety when we travel.  Whether it’s by car, train, bus, subway or plane, someone who wants to hurt us will.  Look at our prisons:  even in maximum security facilities, where every inhabitant has a full cavity search, they are unable to keep out drugs and other contraband.  It’s obviously not for lack of passion or effort on the part of the prison system, it’s just unreasonable to expect a perfect seal around anything.  And without a perfect seal, that they can never guarantee, there is really only one other direction left: finding some way to physically or chemically control us on the plane.  If you think that handcuffs or sedation sound insane, think about whether you ever thought we’d be talking about what is going on today.

So here we are, possibly at the breaking point of our aviation industry.  Are we willing to accept some risk but demand that the industry and our government look for smarter ways to mitigate that risk?  Or have we become so terrified of flying that we are willing to leave the entire industry to those few that are willing to fly no matter what?

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5 comments

  1. This really is taking it too far! I want to be safe, of course, but wow.

    I haven’t flown with my kids in years and probably won’t any time soon. But, it still freaks me out.

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