I grew up loving airports, and loving flying. Airports used to be a place of wonder, with the stores, the planes, the exotic people. My brother and I used to copy down the various airline logos, and I used to have quite a collection of stickers from the various countries I’d visited.
In early September, 2001 – must have been either the 1st or the 8th, since it was a Saturday, I took S up to the observation deck at the Lexington airport and we watched the planes come in and go out. We didn’t have a ticket to go anywhere, but she loved watching the planes, and in those days you didn’t need a ticket to go through security up to the gates.
I remember going to the gate to welcome folks getting off the plane. I even remember going out to the plane to greet people getting off. That wasn’t so very long ago.
And I felt so much safer those days.
But I also remember that, at the same time, there were highly publicized hijackings and plane bombings, so it’s not as though terrorism didn’t exist then, or even that I was unaware of it. Airline terrorism has been something I’ve been aware of for as long as I can remember.
You just understood that it was statistically improbable that it was going to happen to you, or anyone you knew.
Now, I dread flying, and I feel very unsafe. I don’t feel that there is a higher chance that I’ll be affected by any terrorist incident – it’s not that at all. It’s that I have to be subjected to the indignity of the “security” process. I know that my laptop and recording gear is going to be scrutinized and roughly handled by people who assume that it’s a weapon. I know that if I packed too much shampoo, it’s going to be taken from me. I know that my wife will be ogled, and that my kids may be touched in ways that I’ve specifically taught them to resist loudly and violently.
Air travel used to be about adventure. My father always dressed in his best to travel, because it was something of an event. Also, he taught me, if you dress respectably when you travel, you’ll be treated with extra dignity. This is no longer the case.
You can read rants against the new TSA regulations elsewhere. I don’t have anything to add. But it makes me sad to have lost something that was such an integral part of my childhood – the love of flying and of travel in general. This isn’t something new that suddenly happened this month. This has been happening gradually and inexorably since the first post-9-11 flight I took in October of 2001.
Mr. Bush famously made a lot of silly remarks shortly after the 9-11 event about if we gave up our freedoms then the terrorists would have won. We then embarked on the last 9 years of jettisoning our freedoms as fast as we’re able. I’ve seen the Franklin quote (you know the one about liberty and safety, you’ve heard it too) thousands of times in the last 9 years, yet we continue to lose more and more liberties in exchange for less and less safety, and we, as a nation, become more and more accepting of what we’ve already lost in the face of each new insult. The freedom to travel unhindered was one of the core principles that irritated that John Adams guy sufficiently to get behind the revolution.
Quite clearly, by Mr. Bush’s logic, the terrorists have won, and by Mr. Franklin’s, we don’t deserve liberty or safety.
Oh, and I’ll be driving the next time I have to go anywhere where it’s at all feasible. I hope that doesn’t require pat-downs any time soon.