There is a proposal for this coming Wednesday (24 November 2010) for people who are travelling on airplanes to insist on the patdown search in place of the full-body scanner. The goal of this is to clog up the system on one of the busiest travel days in the year. Here’s my suggestion for making this particularly pointed: Stuff a copy of the U. S. Constitution into your pants, and highlight the Fourth Amendment in bright yellow.
As of this moment, I have decided never to fly again. This is not a religious conversion, so I may violate this commitment in times of great need, but I will grouse and whine through the whole process if I ever do, and I’m likely to get arrested.
Why? Lay aside the multiple indignities that make up modern air travel. I’m not allowed to have my .45 with me (I’d load it with Glaser Safety Slugs, I promise!). I can’t smoke (not that I do otherwise, but the ban makes me want to light up a Cuban cigar in the head). I know that I’d get wedged in between a great ape of a travelling businessman and a screaming child. I wouldn’t be allowed to carry my minimum daily requirement of books (yes, I know that they’re heavy, believe me). I’d get the flight that is held on the runway while the flock of raging spotted owls conducts a protest buzzing of the tower. By the time that I got to the airport, checked in, waited around, boarded, actually flew through the air, landed, extracted myself, and collected any checked bags, I could have driven in often less time and with certainly less distress and vitriol.
Isn’t that reason enough? Oh, but it gets better. The Transportation Subversion Administration has decided to install full-body scanners in all airports. You likely have seen the images that these infernal machines create. If not, just imagine yourself having to strip naked in front of the operator. It’s that bad. The image doesn’t show hair, so you’d be bald and naked–reminiscent of a chicken being fried in a microwave.
That’s the privacy concern. Are you ready to sign up for the revolution yet? There’s more. One variety of scanner uses backscatter x-rays to make the image of the person. The claim is that the radiation dosage is low–supposedly the equivalent of flying at altitude for two minutes–but that comes with caveats. While natural radiation is diffuse, the scanner uses a focused beam. That beam is supposed to bounce off human skin, rather than penetrate, but there are warnings about the damage that such a beam could cause, since its radiation is concentrated in the surface layers. I’ve read reports that the strength of the beam isn’t always set correctly and can be much more intense than it is designed to be. The other type of scanner uses millimeter wave radio beams that may cause DNA breakdown.
I have a family history of skin cancer. I often wear hats when I’m out of doors. I realize that I’m arguing from a lack of evidence here, but these machines appear to be a vast experiement in how much radiation human beings can absorb without suffering irreparable damage. There are enough concerns about the risks to make me demand better evidence of the machines’ safety before I subject myself to a scan. I am naturally suspicious whenever the government assures me that something is safe. Yup, we’ve heard that line from the government before.
In some way, I’m annoyed with myself that the loss of privacy that these machines represent isn’t what drove me to write this article. Instead, I’m here worrying about the potential health risks. I recognize that if the reports are correct, the gadgets are likely to be mostly harmless. What really concerns me is that our intrusive government thinks that we will accept this foolishness.
Ronald Reagan said that the nine scariest words in the English language are “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” These days, we need to revise that to say “I’m here to keep you safe.” I do realize that flying is safer than driving. I do realize that we are under threat from terrorists. Nevertheless, unless I am compelled by extraordinary circumstances to fly, I will take my life into my own hands and drive myself. The concealed carry license reciprocity map is a little complicated, but I don’t want to visit New York or Massachusetts anyway. In my own vehicle, I can choose what I bring with me and who my companions will be. On the whole, I think that it will be better for everyone if I stay out of airplanes until our country regains its senses.