Don't Touch That European's Junk

Posted 29 Dec 2010 to rambling, travel and has Comments

My desire to flee the states and become an expatriot increases not only with each international trip I take, but also every time I hear Janet Napolitano open her mouth. Fear-mongering is the business of today’s US government, and business is good. So good, in fact, that our fear has crossed to foreign shores and now takes up residence beneath all airport departure gates bearing the terrified North American continent as its final destination. The look of surprise and anxiety on the faces of the Czechs beside me as they march past the open gates to other foreign lands and suddenly come full stop at the security nightmare that exists singularly at this one portal to “JFK” is disheartening. Why, when travel is so open to every single other country, must they be prodded and probed and patted (yes, every male gets the full front-of-the-hand pat down here and females are oddly ignored) to visit the land of freedom and liberty?

“The answer,” Janet would no doubt reply, “is that you are probably a terrorist. Or you will be one soon. Or you might be one now and not know it. Either way, we’re gonna feel your privates.”

It’s places like the Prague airport that make me want to play one of my favorite games: “one of these things is not like the others.” What have we done that has resulted in the necessity of Delta paying the local mom ‘n’ pop security firm “Curious Bohemian Hands” to so indelicately massage my genitalia in search of weapons? What hasn’t, say, Germany done that would make Lufthansa feel the need to do anything other than ask for a passport?

Clearly, America has pissed some people off who now want to slowly kill us with a “death by a thousand cuts.” But when faced with a problem, our country invariably tends to immediately turn to the great force that has protected our land for generations: defense contractors. We have no need to look at other countries who have dealt with the threat of terrorism for far longer. Why even consider, say, Israel and El Al Airlines which has been operating safely under a more imminent threat than the US without the need for anal probing or expensive magnetrons. Their solution of simply talking to people, which seems to be working with far greater accuracy than our orifice exploration and electronic magnification, has two massive flaws: it’s too simple and too cheap. Also, it doesn’t involve our primary protection mechanism, the defense contractors. We don’t consider alternatives because we tend to crave complexity. Complexity means the need for expertise. Expertise means that money is involved, and likely lots of it.

So who do we turn to for expertise with the complex problems of airport security? Why, Michael Chertoff of course. Who better to sell us the machines that will keep us all safe than the man who created the policies that made them a necessity in the first place? The great thing about using equipment that he sells back to the agency he used to run is that there’s no chance for any shady shenanigans. We already trusted Mike to lead the country’s entire homeland security efforts, so it naturally follows that we not only can but must trust him to sell us exactly what we need for this complex problem. Chertoff makes problem complicated -> complexity -> need for expertise -> The Chertoff Group makes money.

As the final Europeans pass through the junk-o-tron (I couldn’t think of any better name for the large, old, hairy, and thoroughly androgynous junk checker) I wanted to apologize to them. I’m sorry my country has sacrificed dignity for the appearance of security. I’m sorry your first introduction to a land of liberty is a hand down your pants. I’m sorry we still haven’t figured out that reactionary technology will never solve a constantly evolving threat.

Nietzsche wrote that the consolation of the thought of suicide has allowed many to get through a bad night. It’s the understanding that there is always a final step that can be taken if things get bad enough that helps many people endure. What gets me through these ridiculous checks and seeing Janet in Walmart is the thought that if it does indeed get too bad, I will always have the option of leaving. Perhaps Ms. Napolitano and the rest of the fearful will finally push me into finally realizing my dream of living abroad.