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It's a few days before Thanksgiving, and I can't wait to see Kolbe and Katerina come home from college. Kolbe, a sophomore in the Physician Assistant Master's program at De Sales University, will be driving up from Pennsylvania. Katerina, a freshman at the University of Denver, will be flying home. That's the problem.
As the mother of an attractive four-foot-ten eighteen year old daughter, I am utterly appalled that a low level government security official will subject her to body scan imaging and/or an "enhanced pat-down." Images of airport travelers' naked bodies are all over the internet. How did they get there? Why am I able to view them? One twenty-three year old woman was ridiculed by government workers who exposed her breasts in a "pat-down." The procedure for extended search involves reaching down trousers and up skirts. Please tell me how parents can teach a child to be safe from sexual assault and molestation, and then subject the same child to witnessing exactly what they've told him is unsafe at the rubber-gloved hands of the TSA?
As a Catholic, I find this assault on human dignity reprehensible. It is never acceptable to require a person to submit to what amounts to a live digital strip search, or inappropriate and invasive touching without consent. The vocal protest of one passenger, "Don't touch my junk," ought to trouble every Christian. After all, the human body is made by God, and the human person who bears the divine image is anything but junk. As a Catholic, I acclaim modesty and chastity as virtues. Here's what I'm wondering: is it possible to practice the faith at an airport security checkpoint? As someone who works with vowed religious, I am livid that any of them would be viewed by someone on an X-ray screen, or invasively touched. For this concern St. Agnes of Rome is a worthy intercessor. During one of the early persecutions, God saved her purity from the ravages of officially mandated government assault.
As a United States citizen who relies on the protection of my civil rights under the Constitution, I'd like to know when the fourth amendment was repealed. "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Since when does a general threat of terrorism constitute probable cause? If it did, all of our homes, cars, offices could be searched. But as it is, a search of the property or person of a suspected terrorist requires a warrant. No free society allows its government the universal right to strip search its citizens simply because they want to travel freely. The purchase of an airline ticket does not constitute a surrender of civil rights or human decency. A boarding pass isn't a consent to subject oneself to the potential health risks presented by backscatter X-rays. A people who tolerates such government intrusion is subjugated to that government. The United States is the flagship of government by the consent, not just with the consent, of the governed. Who of us consented to this attack on personal privacy? The whole matter is the implementation of a policy formulated by an unelected bureaucrat.
As a rational person, I'd like to suggest that secure travel is not assured by uncovering the methods terrorists might use, but by uncovering the terrorists themselves. Nations like Israel, which have vast experience dealing with constant threat against its civilians, have developed methods of identifying potential terrorists. In other words, they have focused on whom, not how. People dedicated to committing acts of violence will always find ways to carry them out. The real question is whether we can find them in time to stop them. There is no evidence that universal strip searches effectively prevent terror. And too, you have to wonder how poor TSA employees felt when they were informed of what their jobs were suddenly going to require them to do to their fellow citizens.
Now that we're all being humiliated, perhaps it's time to ask if this isn't exactly what terrorists wanted all along; to frighten Americans who are simply going about the normal business of their daily lives enough to convince them that giving up their freedom is necessary? If so, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that our own government is complicit in acts of terror against the people it claims to serve.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.