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Cheers - AE

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Come fly the unfriendly sky

What have we come to when a government that likes to think of itself as the leader of the free world has its airport security drones conducting physical searches of children?

"I'm sorry mummy. I don't know what I did wrong."
You don't even need to be a parent to feel that one like a punch to the guts. How do you explain it to a child? How do you explain that they haven't done anything wrong but that the airport staff have been instructed to think they might have? How do you tell them that their own government, in its paranoia and fear of not only them out there but also those that might be them in here, has granted itself the presumption of guilt and the power to invade their personal space? How do say that this may happen every time they fly and that they have no rights in the matter, none at all? How do you explain that despite the embarrassment, shame or discomfort they may feel while being searched they have no grounds for complaint because 'the agent followed proper procedures'? Or that the way things are going there will soon be a generation that has grown up to believe this is normal and who will not make much objection when its suggested that the same thing be done at railway and bus stations? How do you tell them that they should say 'no' when you yourself are unable to?

Except, of course, you can say 'no'. You can say it simply by not going anywhere staffed by people who have been directed to think of you a a suspect to be checked, interrogated and searched. You can say it by refusing to fly anywhere unless absolutely essential, as the Drexels are now considering.
The family has changed plans for an upcoming trip: they'll be driving instead of flying.
Which is what I'd encourage everybody to do rather than meekly submit. Drive, get the train, sail, video-conference - do absolutely anything but get on a fucking plane unless there really is no alternative. And I really mean no alternative. Don't just look at the map and think that places are a long way apart so you have to fly and put up with all the crap that involves these days. Plan ahead and work out how much time is needed to go by other means, and then balance that against the aggro of flying. Sure, if I had to go to Brisbane tomorrow I'd fly, and if I had to go to New Zealand there's not much option when there's more than 2,000km of sea to cross, but if I had to be in Brisbane in a month's time I'd consider taking 3 days extra to drive there and if I needed a face-to-face on the other side of an ocean I'd loo at doing it with Skype. Anything, anything at all, to get out of the purgatory-like experience of spending time in an airport queueing up and being questioned and queueing up again and being scanned and queueing up again and being patted down, all in the knowledge, as shown by the events in Moscow back in January, that none of this makes you safe if someone has thought about bombing the security queues instead of an aircraft.

And it's saddest of all to see the Americans putting themselves through this. I rather like the bits of America I've seen - and of course like Australia the place is big enough that it should have something that appeals to nearly everybody - and I have a lot of time for Americans in general. More than two hundred years ago they went further than anyone before or since in their efforts for individual liberty, and that so many still revere the document that was written to guarantee their freedoms and is still is their highest law is something I really admire them for. But what a shame it is their government no longer pays more than lip service to it, toeing the line rather than the ideal and spirit, and spinning the idea that such egregiously intrusive measures - physically searching toddlers, for example - are needed to keep Americans safe, in spite of the fact that even Israel, surrounded by people who want it destroyed, doesn't bother with all that unnecessary and pointless crap. Despite my admiration for America and its people these days, thanks to their governments, I'm simply not willing to go there anymore.

The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave has become the land of the sheep and the home of the slave, and in a way gave away the easy victory over terrorism by changing its values and way of life in favour of a climate of fear, suspicion and never ending checks and screening. And the men responsible for it? Well, here's one of them.

I can't imagine how to explain that to a six year old child either.

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