“My child, no one touches you there but your doctor. Well, and a sweaty unionized TSA goon.”
Traveling back from the Conservative Political Action Conference , I paused to discuss the events of the weekend with the woman behind me. An ominous, angry stare was palpable as the TSA agent stood just to the side of us. I guessed immediately that he did not approve of our conservative conversation and felt that sense of dread you feel when you know this might not end well.
The annoyed TSA agent casually walked over to the inspectors who were going through my luggage. They glanced first at him as he whispered, then looked at me in disdain. They called a manager. Then another. I could feel my heart in my throat. My 11-year-old daughter, who was traveling with me, sensed my unease and shot a questioning glance my direction as the large TSA agent sternly directed me to step out of line.
The offending belt buckle.
He ordered me to take off my belt. The buckle is a bejeweled image of a pistol, made with pink beads and metal. I bought it at a boutique in La Jolla, Calif., and it is one of my favorite things. I asked the agent what the problem was, and he said they felt that I look “threatening.” Then he told me that he would need to detain me, and that they would need to confiscate my belt buckle. This is curious because I am all of 5-foot 2 and traveling with my 11-year-old daughter.
I glanced again in the direction of my now-horrified daughter waiting for me on the other side of security. I whispered to them to please not scare her. I assured her as best I could from a distance while she waited alone with our luggage on the other side of the gate.
While packing earlier that day, I had mentally grappled with putting my buckle in my bag, but I thought I lived in a free country that should not be hung up about jewelry images. I also thought that if they found it in my luggage it was more like I had something to hide, than if I just wore it out in the open. I had gone easily through security on my way to D.C., and I always think straightforward is the best approach, so I went with it.
I was very concerned about my daughter and what they might do to her next, so I was desperately appealing to get them to lay off us. I decided to show the TSA agent my concealed-carry license, as certification of my law-abiding citizen status. I informed him that licensed gun carriers are the least likely to commit a crime (with pink crystal belt buckles, seriously?). He ignored me. I said I felt I was being profiled because of my politics, and I refused to give up my belt buckle. I said I would risk missing my plane and go mail my buckle home, but that I would not give it up for some TSA worker to wear and enjoy.
That prompted a “pat down,” which was anything but a “pat.” They repeatedly asked me what was in my pants, and I repeatedly told them nothing. I was groped on the inside and outside of my thighs and groin while my daughter watched, terrified. Ultimately, they determined that I was not so threatening after all and begrudgingly let me on the plane.
Where is the liberty in the groping? What if they had groped my daughter? How long do they punish everyone for the crimes of a few? How long before a terrorist manipulates this ridiculous Obama administration response by planting the next device inside the private parts of a little girl? What will this insane administration do with that?
I propose a new “Safe Skies” policy.
They should allow all federal law-enforcement agents, qualified members of the military and even retirees of those vocations to travel in plain clothes, for no cost, and carry weapons if they felt comfortable. Perhaps, they even offer training courses and licensure for those who wanted to participate in the “Safe Skies” program. The reward for our military would be free flights wherever they want to go. What a wonderful way to simultaneously cut costs to the government (we would need far fewer TSA agents) and thank our soldiers. Our military were trusted to defend us on foreign soil with weaponry, but we don’t trust them to defend our not-so-friendly skies?
They should profile the way Israel does. Fast track known travelers and train all employees from the baggage handlers to the desk workers to ask questions and study body language. I am no threat and should never have been detained as a white, petite woman traveling with a child. Many patriotic, liberty-loving Middle Easterners I know would be happy to cooperate with profiling if it meant that generally speaking, the groping of those who simply don’t fit the profile came to an end.
In the Safe Skies program, no one would know there was an armed, military security person on board a plane, but terrorists would not be able to pull off atrocities they have in the past.
The Safe Skies program would result in reduced costs and the return of our liberty, our dignity and our flying pleasure. That would be a happy ending.
Gina Loudon, Ph.D., is the host of “The Dr. Gina Show” on Truth Talk 630 AM and a national speaker, analyst and writer. She has appeared or been cited by the BBC, Time magazine, Fox News, The Hill, Jon Stewart Daily and 4FM. Loudon is credited as one of the “100 Founding Members” of the tea-party movement.