Every issue has a right and wrong side to it. However, in the US politics, there seems to be a left and right to every issue that is the Left Wing’s and Right Wing’s stance. Lately, the Left and the Right Wing enthusiasts have had more than their share of things to say; such has been the shape of things. Be it the Mosque issue on Ground Zero or the economic policies; the strong polarity of opinions is evident. The latest bee in every one’s bonnet is the new search technique used by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) during the holiday season requiring passengers to undergo a new, more thorough pat-down search procedure at the airport. This has caused a huge uproar among passengers and a whole new debate on security versus privacy issues amongst the Left and Right Wingers.
Last year’s terrorism attempt by a passenger in a Detroit-bound flight, through hiding a bomb in his clothes, is one of the reasons leading to a revision of the security measures by the US authorities. If deployment of 300 full-body scanners at airports wasn’t enough, a system comprising more invasive pat-downs of passengers has been put in place. The scanners portray a near about nude image of one’s body, where as a pat-down requires a more vigorous search of the body, including the private parts. Thus, the passengers seem to be caught between the devil and the deep blue sea (the third option for the protesting passengers is not flying at all of course!). The pat-downs have already traumatized many passengers and have irked controversies, protests and debates. Consequently, there have passengers who felt uncomfortable, violated even traumatized, outraged, and humiliated. A young boy was stripped and searched despite resistance; a rape victim felt traumatized and harassed; a cancer survivor got soiled in his own urine; a passenger threatened a security officer with a ‘don’t touch my junk’ retort; an Indian female diplomat was subjected to the pat-down because she was wearing a sari; and many more incidents. The U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was concerned by the diplomatic issue and felt that it should be investigated; however, her act of publicly expressing relief for not undergoing this procedure has raised quite a few eyebrows. Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and a Fox News face, even went as far as asking President Obama to submit his own family to this controversial airport pat-down procedure. Since the privileged lot is exempted from enjoying the rules of their own making, so are they genuinely concerned about the passengers’ perspective and feelings on the issue or totally blind to it, one is tempted to ask?
The conservative media and Right Wingers are using the public reaction against these airport security screenings as an opportunity to renew their calls for racial profiling. Philadelphia Daily News reporter, Will Bunch, has rightly recounted in his blog that the Right Wing seems to have an acute mistrust and paranoia of anything ‘Obama’ due to the homeland security issues encountered during the Bush era. Many feel that the issue is being given a political angle needlessly. Not everyone is flying all the time and why does anyone have to fear any procedure anyways if he/she isn’t hiding anything? And after all, security is to be ensured by the government, at any cost? These are some of the retorts. Surely, ask anyone who has suffered during the 9/11 attacks or other similar terrorism bids, and they would tell you that safety comes first, and propriety later. On the flip side, those averse to these procedures would tell you that they may not be hiding destructive weapons; nevertheless, their need for privacy and prosperity has to do with their personal lives, choices, vulnerabilities, etc. This can be a prosthetic body part, a reminder of cancer survival; a reusable sanitary napkin, a lifestyle choice; fear of a stranger’s unwelcoming touch, a by-product of rape or molestation; a scarf, gown or sari, even a beard, which may not just be a cultural and religious choice but a symbol of one’s modesty, faith, and propriety. All travelers are not terrorists, and they come from all sorts of backgrounds.
Thus, the government has a quandary at hand: coming up with effective security measures without impinging the passengers’ privacy and freedom. While the threat of terrorism is very much real, the Obama administration has to see how much is enough and how far they can go in enforcing any security measure. Obama seems to be on the right track, as he admitted that the TSA has to “constantly refine and measure whether what we're doing is the only way to assure the American people's safety” and it also has to “think through, ‘Are there other ways of doing it that are less intrusive?'”
But this doesn’t end here! The US government, Left or Right, has to reevaluate its foreign policies and excesses in Iraq and Afghanistan, as much of the antagonism of Talibans is stemming from that and the masses are paying its price as a form of collateral damage everywhere. Thus, exposing travelers to dangerous radiation and physically humiliating search procedures may not be the only solution. It’s in fact part of the problem.
The polarity between the left and right is evident, as stated earlier. On the outset it is a sign for freedom of thought and the assertion of the right to uphold one’s opinion, but it also shows the face of a nation more divided, polarized, bewildered and paranoid than ever. It also shows that the world may have expanded as a global village thanks to aviation marvels and other forms of technologies, but in the face of threats like terrorism, it is getting too confined, constricted and somewhat hostile and dangerous for us.