I recently happened to have dinner with a senior federal law enforcement official who happens to be acquainted with the head of the TSA. It was right before the TSA's aggressive, invasive new genital-grabbing or naked photography search protocols were installed. I made a joking but obviously critical statement of the upcoming mass infringement of our liberties at the hands of our own government, and how this unproven security theater provides no actual protection against a terrorist threat. The official replied that the thing he couldn't figure out is why no one ever criticized or blamed the terrorists; after all, they're the ones who are making us do all this in the first place.
I was frankly shocked--too stunned to actually say anything about this candid, complete abandonment of any sense of accountability in the upper echelons of our security bureaucracy, the utter lack of awareness that we are not, in fact, forced by anyone, much less terrorist thugs dwelling in Pakistani caves, to surrender our principles and personal liberty to government agents in order to exercise our constitutionally guaranteed right to travel. We are doing it to ourselves, and we have only ourselves to blame. Ourselves, and the spineless politicians who hand out $350 million body scanner contracts for each other.
Instead of saying any of this, though, I agreed that when I saw him, I would definitely add US governmental ball-grabbing to my list of complaints for Osama Bin Laden.
In the mean time, while at least one frustrated dad in Salt Lake was driven to strip his 8-year-old son's shirt in order to "expedite" his secondary TSA screening--and while the TSA ludicrously claims this dad's action absolves them of any responsibility for the incident ["you brought this on yourself, baby"]--I can understand how a parent who is planning to travel with kids soon would be concerned about these encounters affect his kid's psyche.
And I can also see that preventing your kid from being traumatized by the TSA would be even more important than making sure your kid doesn't freak out at the airport and somehow throw your whole family into a Kafkaesque TSA nightmare--that ruins Thanksgiving and lands you, eventually, on Larry King.
So fortunately, Debbie, whose suddenly wistful-sounding momblogging mission at Deliciousbaby.com is "making travel with kids fun," has asked a child development expert's advice on how to make travel with kids, if not fun, at least not emotionally scarring for life. Fine.
Now that that's covered, though, I want to know how to talk to my kids about the outrage and injustice these encounters represent? How do you prepare a kid to deal with being subject to police power--to survive, first and foremost, of course, but also to maintain one's autonomy, dignity, integrity, how to assert one's rights with confidence and fear, but with respect for their counterpart's humanity? How do I talk to my kids about the responsibility of an engaged citizen toward such needless violations, and about the role of the state and its relationship to the individual? And finally, something that I've wondered ever since the September afternoon in New York nine years ago, how can you still have hope for the world when the forces that be align to instill and confirm fear at every turn?
And that's why I went with the headline I did. Just as involved dads suddenly awake to the hostility of the American workplace to family issues--the discrimination working moms have known all too well for decades--maybe the current TSA search controversy can awaken the entire traveling population to the abuses of power and injustice that some of us, the browner ones, have been dealing with for decades.
Under Rudy Giuliani, the NYPD routinely subjected tens of thousands of African American and Latino men each year to illegal strip searches and police stop-and-frisks. Presumably, parents of kids in the affected communities have taught their kids how to deal with the unjust reality they were likely to face.
In short, then, can the lessons hard-learned from Driving While Black help us--and help us help our kids--make sense of the new crime of Flying While American?
How to talk to your kids about TSA pat-downs [sic] [deliciousbaby.com]