In today's Times-Dispatch, Barton Hinkle tells the story of Aaron Tobey, arrested at the Richmond airport last December for disorderly conduct. When TSA staff directed him to enter one of those see-through screening machines, Tobey yanked his shirt off revealing the text of the fourth amendment penned across his bare chest. This act may or may not be illegal.
Let's set aside the security and civil liberties issues for a moment. It strikes me that both Tobey and his more famous partner in TSA resistance, John "Don't touch my junk" Tyner, are fairly young men and fairly touchy about being touched. Could there be a demographic or cultural issue lurking here?
Maybe. The issue would be Male Insecurity About Body Image.
Of course women have been made to feel insecure about their bodies for a long time. "Your boobs are too small; your hips are too wide; your butt is too big," are just some of the insults, spoken or implied by Barbie dolls, super models and jerk husbands and boyfriends.
But in these more egalitarian times, men too can be made to feel physically inadequate. Just read Men's Health, or it's soft-porn partner Maxim. Listen to the ads on sports talk radio, or play a video game. The not-so-subtle message that these media outlets pitch to young adult men is that even a healthy body will no longer do. You need a washboard stomach. Your chest needs to be large enough to merit its own zip code. Male pattern baldness is a capital offense.
Even the notoriously high young adult male sex drive isn't high enough. You've got to push it into the stratosphere. Here's a Cialis. Now chase it with a red bull and vodka. You need the stamina of a porn star because that's what the ladies expect, don't they?
Only a miniscule few are able to sculpt their bodies and jack up their libidos to meet the new and impossibly high standard. Which leaves the ones who accept the standard as gospel feeling woefully inadequate.
And I wonder if that's not behind some of the pat-down backlash. The bravado in the face of so-called "unreasonable searches and seizures," or "sexual assault" by TSA screeners may be over-compensation for massive insecurity about one's own body.
Young adult heterosexual males need their own version of the It Gets Better campaign. Call it, It Can Get Better: work out less; work at being a better person more; fall in love with someone who's committed to being a better person, and you know what? They won't love your body because it looks like it was chiseled out of granite. They'll love your body because it's yours. And that brings a security that makes the occasional indignities that the human body has to bear--like colonoscopies and airport pat-downs--a bit more bearable.
You can do this even if you never fall in love and mate for life. Seek truth and goodness, and beauty will take care of itself.
Finally, to return to the security and civil liberties issues, we do live in a world where people try to do bad things on airplanes like blow them up, hijack them, and/or crash them. It would appear as though we need security that's equal to the threat.
Now just what is that? I read here and there that a lot of what you experience in an airport is public relations. It's there to make you feel better. Leave it to the government to annoy people in an attempt to make them feel better.
Are see-through imaging machines and aggressive pat downs necessary? As to the latter, the Israelis have been doing it for some time now. Aside from my wife and my doctor, no one has touched me more intimately than a security guard at the Frankfurt, Germany airport before I boarded a flight to Tel Aviv. If I had objected, their attitude would have been, "Fine. If your junk is that precious, don't go to Israel!" And you know what? Terrorists don't do bad things to jets that fly in and out of Tel Aviv.
Long story short, I'd rather get felt up than blown up. Provided that feeling people up is a legitimate technique for keeping bad guys off of airplanes.