The cover story in the current issue of City Pages is on airline security, and the headline says, “Everything we know about security is wrong.”
The guy being interviewed, who is a security expert, says that three things have improved airplane security: reinforcing the cockpit door, telling people to fight if there is an attempt to take over the plane and — maybe, the guy isn’t entirely sure — having marshals on board.
Everything else — the removal of shoes, the seizing of liquids and lighters and fingernail clippers — does not make it safer to fly. At best it makes people feel safer. But it may aggravate them and make them reluctant to fly, at least in the US; or it may make them more fearful and willing to do whatever authority tells them to do, even if it’s as weird was walking through a security check point in stocking feet.
(The expert did not say this last. It’s my contribution. Air New Zealand is routing its flights to Europe through Canada now, because passengers going to Europe hated dealing with US security when the planes stopped in LA.)
(What the expert did say was, “We are one terrorist attack away from becoming a police state.”)
I had figured out most of the security stuff from common sense and listening to Patrick, who spent many years working in locked psych wards. One of his jobs was searching people’s luggage when they came onto the unit and removing anything that might be used as a weapon. This, plus the experience of seeing people turn unusual objects into weapons, has given him an acute sense of what can and can not be used for harm. He says the TSA is a bunch of amateurs. “They let people onto planes with pencils.”
In any case, the article got me thinking about security. What is security to me?
A decent place to live, a job that pays a living wage, health care, a pension, the assurance that I will be cared for if I become disabled, a society with a working infrastructure and public amenities. Libraries and parks and decent public schools make me feel safe, along with mowed lawns, clean streets, good hospitals, every kind of evidence that people care for their community and their neighbors.
I am a lot more worried about old age, poverty, the fraying of the social fabric and war than I am of being on a plane that gets hijacked.