As I sit at a terminal in Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, I have a lot of time to reflect on the state of airport security in 2017. Everywhere around me are people of different nationalities, all of whom speak a wide array of languages, whether it’s English, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic and more. Although we don’t have a lot in common, all of us have congregated in this one location, barely tolerating each other, purely because the invention of the airplane has allowed humanity to become a much more globalized and nomadic beast. Something that bothers about the whole affair then, is the fact that the events of September 11th and the ensuing years of international terrorism has soured the atmosphere of the airport, changing it from of place of diversity and communal experience, to one of paranoia and bitter fear.
The only time people at an airport seem to get along is when they are the subjects of the torture that the TSA commits on almost everyone who passes through the gates of security. Ask anybody who has flown on an airplane, and I bet you almost every single one of them has a TSA horror story, whether they tore open a suitcase because of it’s contents, held someone in security so long they missed their flights because of a stray item in their carry-on, or even just racially profile the same person consistently, leading to ridiculous and uncomfortable pat downs. As someone who’s fairly libertarian in ideals, and as someone who has privacy rights afforded by me being an American citizen, I always have to grit my teeth through security as I wonder how we universally allowed ourselves to be subject to such invasive and authoritarian checks when we simply want to fly from one state to the other.
Of course, whenever I complain, I always get the same responses my peers and superiors. The common claim is that if you put in effort and follow the rules, then there’s generally no issue, and at the end of the day the feeling of safety we get from having uniformed people invade our privacy is worth the hassle. For the longest time, I questioned this logic, half because I can’t bare having people go through my belongings just to ride a plane, and half because I keep my facial hair long, unruly, and very suspect, so I’ve received more than my fair share of pat downs and full suitcase searches. As someone who frequently flies every year, I couldn’t help but be bothered by watching old people get picked up out of wheelchairs and way too young to be dangerous children get harassed in the name of “security”. This led to me always being overly confrontational with the TSA, and this culminated during a recent flight when several passengers and I almost missed our flight because the entire security line was obsessed with scanning and prodding a vintage game console, convinced that the machine was secretly a bomb. As the three people in front of me all missed their flight, and I myself was dangerously close to boarding time, I started to get snippy with the folks who were obviously abusing their power over us, but when that anger extended to a younger employee who had arrived to get the line moving again, I realized my blind hatred had gone too far.
At the end of the day, airport security has run on it’s strict security platforms for too long now for anything to change. Obviously the trade-off between the hassle and the convenience of flying is still fair enough to keep the business going. While I do take issue with the invasion of privacy every time I fly, I also am aware enough to recognize that I have written many blogs on the ever increasing amount of Islamic terror around the world, and maybe having a system at the airport, no matter how much of a facade it is, does manage to keep the peace in a such a hectic and global community. Maybe having a bunch of glorified mall cops tear through my bag every few months is the price I pay for living in the modern world. As always we have to question how much freedom we’re giving up in exchange for an illusion of security, and I guess airport security is the answer to exactly how far we’re willing to let security take precedence. While the TSA may be a necessary evil in these dangerous times, how much further will we go in order to pretend that we’re all safe? With no end to the wars in the Middle East in sight, I guess we’ll keep creeping ever further away from freedom.