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Jewish World Review Nov. 25, 2004 / 12 Kislev, 5765

Tom Purcell

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Flying the Frisky Skies | If you plan to fly this Holiday Season, there's something you better leave at home: your dignity.

Ever since two Russian airliners went down last summer — both exploded because two women concealed explosives beneath their clothing — the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has allowed airport screeners to get frisky. In the hunt for concealed explosives, screeners are allowed to pat folks down in very private areas.

I was introduced to this policy recently. For three flights in a row, I was selected for special screening. This is because Al Qaeda's new strategy is to recruit 42-year-old Irish-American fellows who have large freckled noggins and a touch of cognac on their breath.

Now I have sympathy for the people who are doing the screening. It isn't their fault a bunch of religious fanatics are certain their G-d is telling them to blow planes out of the sky. But why does every airport have a large smelly guy doing the secondary screening?

The process wasn't so bad at first. I sat in the chair and lifted each leg and Bubba waved the wand all about me. I stood and Bubba finished waving the wand over the rest of me. So far, so good.

But then things got personal. He asked me to hold my arms out to my side. He walked behind me. Then he began groping at me with an intensity and thoroughness so humiliating, I couldn't look myself in the eyes when he was done. I didn't know if I should slug the fellow or send him a dozen roses.

The process is even worse for women. Because they have more, um, undergarments, they have more places to conceal explosives. They are being patted down in a manner that usually requires dinner and a show.

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I have no proof, but I think women are being profiled. I suspect that the prettier they are, the more likely Bubba will direct them to the special screening area. Heck, if I had Bubba's job, that's certainly what I would do. I'd double-handedly secure the world from the threat of good-looking female terrorists.

But that brings us to what is really going on here. The airport groping is the result of three powerful trends. It is about the intersection of primitivism, progressivism and pragmatism.

Primitivism isn't hard to understand. It has to do with folks who are still living in the 6th century. They disdain the concept of equal rights and they hold their women down. They disdain the thought of free elections, that folks are innocent until proven guilty, and that a man should be free to practice any religion or none at all.

They are clear about what they want. They want America to pull out of the Middle East entirely. They want to impose their form of government on the region by which a select group of fellows, receiving precise instructions from their G-d, will make all the decisions. They intend to keep killing Americans until they get what they want. That brings us to progressivism. See, Americans are a truly advanced people. We would never do something so lowly as to profile anybody by religion, race or place of birth. We'd especially not do this at the airport, which is why Bubba may be patting down your 94-year-old grandmother as you read this.

And that brings us to pragmatism — American pragmatism. It's been more than three years since 911, and yet the land of invention and innovation has been unable to implement some of the most basic security measures.

Sure, there is a technology that can determine whether or not someone has explosives hidden on his or her body, but it will be a while before it is rolled out. It's being tested, or something like that. And so the groping must go on.

In any event, the screening lines will be especially long at the airport this holiday season as Bubba works over you, your friends and your family. It would be a good idea to leave your dignity back home.

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© 2004 Tom Purcell