Does This Look Like Victory To You?


Does This Look Like Victory To You?


Leonard Zwelling

Author Bob Greene writes in The Wall Street Journal on January 25 about life before the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA).

It was fifty years ago that airport security began its intense rise from metal detectors and individual searches to what we have today—shoes off, belts gone, jackets on the conveyor, computers out, phones in trays, and what Lewis Black calls the ugga-bugga stick to detect what the x-ray, whirly-thing missed. Fifty years ago we were in the era of airline hijacking.

Before January 1973, you could stroll into an airport, with or without a ticket, and proceed to your gate or the gate at which your loved ones were arriving. No longer.

Mr. Greene notes: “you could carry whatever you wanted onto your flight—it’s not as if someone was going to look into your bag. Firearms? Knives? Explosives?” Apparently, there are still fools who think that it is ok to bring a loaded gun on a domestic flight as thousands are confiscated every year by the TSA. Forced to unpack items from a checked bag because union rules in Argentina prevented the handlers from carrying bags over a certain weight (even if you paid the overage fee), I accidently carried on a pen knife—or tried to. I’ll not see that knife again.

Of course, the event that changed everything was 9/11. That’s when the country was attacked, not by a foreign government or a real political entity, but a band of terrorists whose sole purpose was to disrupt life in America. It worked. They did just that. We will never be the same.

Every time the BW and I are in some long line at a checkpoint in an airport, I say the same thing. “Does this look like victory to you?”

Now is there really anything that can be done about this forced regimentation of our travel patterns since 9/11? I cannot see how. The world is an even more dangerous place with more people wishing Americans and other westerners ill than was the case in 2001. Even in the farthest reaches of the third world, airport security remains in place everywhere. As long as there are relatively soft targets like civilian airports, the bad guys will be out there trying to kill us, but there are steps being taken to make the compliance process easier.

CLEAR is a real breakthrough. You register your fingerprints and retina scan with them and you fly through gate check-in. Clear Secure, Inc. is a private company on the New York Stock Exchange and CLEAR stations are located in over 50 airports now. Fortunately, Bush is one of those airports and CLEAR is a great innovation. Similar technology is coming to Global Entry to speed up your passage back into the country after foreign travel. We breezed through customs in Houston when returning from Argentina and the newest technology will make this even faster.

Regardless of all of the innovations in security technology, there is no going back to the old open system when your kids could meet you at the gate when you returned from a business trip to California as I did when my father returned to Idewild Airport (now JFK) on Long Island in the early days of jet travel in America.

I was brought up in a different world of travel than my kids who have never known life without the TSA. But then they barely remember life before 24/7 closed circuit cameras on every block and in every store, let alone Ring at every front door.

We have given up a lot of privacy in our drive for security. I guess it’s worth it, but it still doesn’t feel like victory to me.

2 thoughts on “Does This Look Like Victory To You?”

  1. You remind us of the days when we did not worry about terrorism.
    Our grandchildren know only the currents systems of safety. For example, when I first visited our youngest grandson’s school, the first person whom he wanted me to meet was not his teacher but Officer Tom who “keeps us safe.” The reality, however, is that someone intent on violence would figure out how to out maneuver Office Tom or neutralize him.
    But, despite all the loss of privacy and possibility of violence, our grandchildren still live in a neighborhood where they are allowed to go between friends’ homes and ride their bikes to the store. The neighborhood has a great “neighborhood watch” program where any stranger is confronted immediately, and the police patrol regularly. And, above all, the children play and laugh the way that we remember. For this joy, we are grateful.

    1. Indeed. Our grandchildren seem similarly well situated for which we are grateful. However, it is definitely a more dangerous world.

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