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The boogeyman is winning

POSTED November 23, 2010 8:52 p.m.

I used to enjoy flying. I really did.

It signified the start of an adventure, a momentous occasion every time the engine spooled up and I soared skyward. It’s the sort of thing that I never thought could lose its luster.

But over the course of the last nine years, we’ve turned air travel into the least appealing form of transportation known to man, all in the name of “safety.”

Like all forms of transportation, flying in an aircraft is inherently unsafe. Electrical issues, lighting strikes, hydraulic system gaffes, bird strikes, pilot error, and fires have all caused airplanes to crash in large numbers.

Yet, for some reason, “terrorism” is the boogeyman we all fear.

I don’t mean to diminish the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Nor do I mean to wave off the events of Aug. 24, 2004, when two Russian airliners were bombed, causing 46 deaths.

But it’s been more than nine years since the last successful terrorist attack on an American flight. Six years since the last successful terrorist attack on a plane, period.

Sure, there were idiots with explosives concealed in their shoes, underwear, and who knows where else, but they accomplished little with their chemicals. Or else they’ve accomplished more than they could have hoped for, depending on how you look at it.

No one has died due to airborne terrorism since 2004, but we’ve lost our freedom, piece by piece. The newest measures from the Transportation Security Administration are more inflammatory than any bomb.

Now, to board an aircraft, fliers must submit to full-body x-ray scans. These scans – detailed enough to make out every aspect of one’s genitalia – are viewed by TSA officials in hopes of identifying another underwear bomber.

The health effects of these x-rays – concentrated heavily on sensitive skin cells – are being questioned by health professionals from John Hopkins University and University of California, San Francisco. The doctors fear that no independent review of the x-ray machines occurred, and warn that skin, eyes, sperm, breasts, and blood could be damaged. As well, the doctors worry about the damage done to seniors, children, fetuses, cancer patients, and a percentage of the female population especially sensitive to x-rays.

Flyers do have the choice to “opt-out” of the potentially cancer-causing naked picture machine. But their only other option is a newly “enhanced” pat-down procedure.

The new pat-downs see TSA agents “use their fingers and palms to feel and probe for hidden weapons and devices around sensitive body parts, such as the breast and groin area,” per the Los Angeles Times. Previously, the pat-downs just involved running the back-of-the-hands down a flyer’s body.

Since the new policy went into place, complaints have been rampant. Sexual abuse survivors have broken down crying.  A bladder cancer survivor had his urostomy bag burst, covering him in urine. Children have been subjected to these gropings.

I’m entirely confident that most TSA employees don’t enjoy administering these pat-downs, but the fact remains that they’re happening. And, soon enough, they could be happening to me.

Prior to the new security measures going into place I scheduled a cross-country trip for later this year. If I could go back, I might not book that flight now.

9/11 was a horrible day, one we won’t forget, but it happened. It’s over. It’s time to move on.

Sure, these efforts might prevent an attack, but they do so by invading the privacy of millions of people each year. That’s not a trade-off I’m willing to make in a country founded on the tenet to live free or die.

When I’m at the airport, shoeless, either getting groped or having my naked body stared at, I know what I’ll be thinking. The terrorists are winning.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005. To contact Alex Cantatore in the flesh, apply for a position at the TSA.

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