Monday, December 20, 2004

Yes, I DO enjoy airport security

Powerline notes that people seem to have different opinions of what "civil liberties" are. One area that's come up in the past is airport security's racial profiling of passengers of Arab descent. And as one of those Arabic passengers, I'd just like to say: I'm all for it.

Thanks to the varying ethnic background of my parents, I have an Arabic face but a non-Arabic name. Before 9/11, we used to joke that if I didn't shave before going to the airport, I'd look "just terrorist enough" that they wouldn't let me on the plane. Now, of course, it's more of a liability than a joke.

Since heightened security was instituted after 9/11, the airline I usually take has instituted so-called "random screenings" of passengers at the gate. And I've noticed that I have been selected for one of these searches a disproportional number of times, as far as I can tell. Friends and relatives traveling the same airline through the same airports report that at most they've gotten the screening once; yet I've been lucky enough to be screened roughly 60% of the times I've traveled.

And now to shatter the illusions of the ACLU and trigger-happy lawyers everywhere (I can already hear them preparing briefs for "the discrimination lawsuit of the century") - I'm glad that this happens. It's not that I enjoy standing in front of a group of passengers and having a wand run over my body; it's not that I enjoy having my bag rifled through, having to turn on every electronic gadget I carry (and I lug a bunch of them around) to prove they're real. What I enjoy is the peace of mind that comes when I realize that everyone who looks like me gets the same treatment.

Call me an oddball, but I'm already a bit nervous about strapping myself into a thin aluminum tube that's stapled with two triangular bits of metal, powered by several hundred gallons of explosive fuel and held aloft by a scientific theory I only partially comprehend, relying on two guys I've never met to guide it at 300+ mph several thousand feet above the hard, hard ground.

I don't want to have to worry about some nutjob with an inferiority complex trying his damndest to bring the whole thing down.

You can argue the case about bigotry, guilt by association, and racial profiling all you want - but the bottom line is that 19 out of 19 hijackers who did the 9/11 attacks were Middle Eastern men. Track recent terrorist attacks, and with the notable exception of the Chechen schoolhouse massacre, most of them have been conducted by Muslims and/or Arabs. Is it really unreasonable to suspect a trend?

So I'll stand there, arms outstretched and shorn of all metal objects while some guy x-rays my shoes, so you can feel safer. I'll re-pack my backpack after it's been searched, and be happy that it's not an isolated occurrence. I'll take one for the team, and I'll breathe a little easier when I'm on that airplane. And I'll be glad that I can watch the scrolling landscape below, without having to keep an eye on the guy three rows ahead, who looks just like my uncle.


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