I have no power to convince you to call your Senators, change your travel plans, or engage in light civil disobedience. But, damn it all, I'll try.
Last week I read at Coastal Carolina University in beautiful Conway, South Carolina. Thanks to Dan Albergotti for inviting me. I had a great time.
But I didn't enjoy the trip's beginning. At the airport in Atlanta, going through security, I was directed to the space where TSA employees usually work with disabled or elderly travelers. This area is in full sight, between the tandem streams of travelers passing through X-ray machines. So far, no big deal: usually, I'm quickly looked over and waved on. Often, the TSA employees are more concerned with my wheelchair's batteries. Which is understandable: my chair runs on two car batteries. By all means, let's check those out.
But, we live in an "enhanced" era: enhanced interrogations, enhanced patdowns. The TSA employee, a dour, middle-aged man with thick silver hair, informed me that he would be performing a patdown on me, that I could request a private room if I was uncomfortable receiving this in public. That's not needed, I said, wanting to get going.
He was wearing blue latex gloves. Several on each hand. He asked me to lean over. I did. He then stuck his left thumb in my pants, between the waistband and my skin, and ran it all the way around. I was shocked.
"I feel like I have to tell you that is wildly intrusive and offensive."
He sputtered a bit about the safety of American lives.
"That's fine," I said, "I understand the concern. That doesn't change the fact that I feel that what you're doing is totally unacceptable."
He didn't say anything. He crouched in front of me. He asked if any parts of my body were sensitive to pain.
"They all are, I think," I replied. He thought about that for a moment before continuing.
"Starting with your ankles, and moving up, I'm going to examine your legs until I feel resistance."
He began kneading my calves and shins, up over my knees to my thighs, squeezing, until he reached my genitals.
It was like a bad date. With the US government.
After he had thoroughly groped me, he sent me on my way.
This was truly, profoundly egregious and contrary to what we claim are American ideals. In fact, this kind of abuse is corrosive to those ideals. If we accept these practices, then we accept the next wave of violations. We are complicit in the extinguishing of our rights.
Say no, stop flying, call your Senators - you have a lot of choices.