I overslept yesterday but that’s okay; it was Christmas Eve, the day Santa visits my household shortly after sundown. So, I figured, all those hours I slept in this morning mean less hours to kill before unwrapping presents.
I wandered through the apartment in a happy pre-coffee haze, singing bits of half-forgotten holiday carols and scat-singing the rest: C’mon it’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with youuu, shabba-tabba-te-dooo.
Should’ve left well enough alone. Should’ve stayed off-line. But no –I checked a couple of news websites instead and read something which must’ve shown on my face, for my boyfriend asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” I snapped in the same tone of voice most people use to say “Fuck you and everyone you love.” Then I quickly added, in a much softer tone, “I’m not a violent person but I swear, every time I read about the latest TSA travesty I want to punch something.”
If you were fool enough to try flying yesterday, then you might have learned the hard way what I learned about online: TSA has decided that Thermos bottles and other insulated food containers are the latest Potentially Dangerous Terrorist Threats
. (Incidentally, I had arranged for Santa to bring my beloved, among other things, a miniature cooler/insulated lunch box. I only thought to improve his lunch-at-work situation; how was I to know this could threaten the security of our once-great republic?)
As the news reported:
Transportation Security Administration officials issued an alert Thursday for agents to take a closer look at empty insulated drink containers at security checkpoints, citing them as potential instruments in a terror tactic, the Associated Press reports.
The agency noted it will respond to growing concerns with additional security measures. The fear is that terrorists can use the metal containers to conceal explosives, according to the AP.
Despite the warning, however, authorities stress that there has not been any intelligence about a specific threat involving the drink-toting bottles. The closer inspection is simply an additional safety check to ensure safe holiday travels, they said, and the TSA is "carefully monitoring information related to terrorist tactics and working with our international partners to share information."
The added measures will include X-ray screenings, checks for any trace of explosives and physical inspections, but passengers will still be permitted to carry insultated beverage containers onto flights.
The ban on liquids more than 3.4 ounces is also still in effect.
There’s a ban on liquids of more than 3.4 ounces? Wow, TSA must have mellowed since I last flew, in 2006: back then, Americans were only allowed to have three ounces of liquid on a flight, and any bottle holding 3.4 ounces was officially Too Dangerous To Fly
. What made TSA relent on that extra four-tenths of an ounce? The same process TSA uses to determine all its policies, no doubt: propose a somber hypothesis subject to rigorous peer review by a select group of Israeli intelligence experts, Nobel-winning physicists and other high-IQ Wise Scientific Minds.
Ha ha ha ha ha. What really happened was, a bunch of TSA flunkies sat around smoking much
better marijuana than ordinary Americans can usually get – confiscation powers over rich-person travelers has its perks – and then one of them coughed and said, “Whoooaa, duuude, y’know if a te’rr’ist had a Thermos bottle he could maybe, like, do
stuff with it.” Then his morbidly obese colleague snorted a fat line of coke off her three-inch-long fake fingernail and shouted with a sudden burst of energy: “Ohmigod ohmigod you’re right you’re right YOUARESOFUCKINGRIGHT we gotta watch for the Thermos bottles gotta watch them gotta watch them GOTTA WATCH THEM NOW!!”
And they laughed, and they patted themselves on the back for their valuable contributions to national security.
The thuggish behavior now standard in American airports is creeping to other forms of mass transit, too. Washington DC kicked off the holiday season by starting “random checks” of Metro passengers’ baggage on the Winter Solstice
. New York City has already done that to subway passengers for a few years now. And whenever the latest invasion of our privacy is announced, the government PR agents calling themselves journalists
find some dimwit to give a Man On The Street quote: “Oh, yes, it’s worth it so the government can keep us safe.”
No, dammit, the government doesn’t do this to keep us safe; they do this instead of
things that would keep us safe! TSA’s so busy feeling your underwear, they can’t find the actual bombs that test agents smuggle through security checkpoints; so busy measuring how many hundredths of an ounce of shampoo you’ve got, they can’t bother checking what’s in a plane’s cargo hold.
This Christmas I learned some friends of mine are moving out of my area, to parts of the country so far away I’ll never have time to drive there. Ordinarily I would say “Hooray! They got new jobs, and I’m finally prosperous enough to afford plane fare for vacations.” But not now. I can buy a plane ticket to visit people I care about, sure; what I can’t
do is quietly submit to letting some worthless waste of human genetic material molest me first. I can’t even accept that I – a citizen of what still calls itself “a free country” – am actually expected
to do that.
Dehumanizing people – denying their right to feel basic human emotions like “outrage at the thought of a stranger fondling their private parts” – that’s what totalitarian countries do, right? Not mine. All my life I heard – I believed
– I should be grateful to live in the United States of by-God America
, Land of the Free, Government of by and for The People, Bastion of Liberty and Human Rights … but I’ll never see my friends again unless the TSA disbands, or I become so utterly debased that it doesn’t bother me to have my vacation bookended by random thugs feeling me up with dirty latex gloves.
According to educational advertisements sponsored by various anti-drug task forces, there are ways I could easily reach that level of debasement, where impersonal sexual assault became ordinary, unremarkable everyday business for me. Too bad it’s too late for me to ask “Dear Santa, please bring me whatever supplies I’d need to become a crystal meth addict
.” That would make it easier for me to perform my presumptive duties as a modern American, a generation after the Cold War ended and we all thought concepts like Freedom and Human Rights would rule the future.