Gone are The Days of Gracious Travel
I recently had occasion to pick up a passenger from a small metropolitan airport and I must say that gracious travel is more a legend then a reality these days. During my young corporate days, I did a lot of business traveling both before and after airline deregulation. Prior to deregulation smaller regional airlines offered delightful services; from gourmet fare to wide seats, even in coach. In addition it was even possible to book flights up until the morning of the flight and be assured of a seat. After deregulation, the seats became tighter and more bus-like and one is now lucky to get a bag of stale peanuts. Yet, believe it or not, conditions have deteriorated even further for the contemporary traveler.
Since I’ve not traveled by air since shortly after 9/11, witnessing firsthand the procedures of the Transit Setting Authenticators, (named changed to protect the innocent, i.e. me, since word repetition is a flag for the internet watchdogs), security was an eye-opener, to say the least. We arrived at the terminal about twenty minutes before the arriving flight was due, so this afforded me an opportunity to observe the comings and goings of the many parties that make up the scene of a modern transportation terminal. The place was abuzz with passengers, police of various local, state, and federal authorities, and airline personnel, as well as, miscellaneous airport and commercial people. I intentionally secured a seat which gave access to the glass paneled wall of the Transit Setting Authenticators security check-in; a truly amazing experience, indeed. From this vantage point I had an unobstructed view of the activities of the Transit Setting Authenticators personal at almost every station and of the incoming passengers. My immediate impression was that of the famed Chicago stockyards of yesteryear, with its mazes and sluices through which compliantly ambled the soon to be slaughtered cattle.
The welcoming and cordial faces of air travel gone-by has been replaced by the gruff and oft intimidating and leering faces of rigid government agents who scrupulously eye, every passenger and parcel passing in front of them. Initially, departing passengers obediently line up in raceways, papers in hand; awaiting screening at the first Transit Setting Authenticators hurdle: the checking of the no-fly lists. Here tickets, boarding passes, and picture ID’s, and whatever other required documents are compared to the now famous list. If all is in order one is passed onto the second hurdle, if not, you are either referred back to the ticketing desk or shuttled off to a separate area awaiting further vetting and clarification.
The second Transit Setting Authenticators obstacle is the carry-on baggage x-ray. Here all your current earthly goods are deposited in a tub where they proceed to a beltway into the scanner. Jewelry, watches, shoes, and other personal items are sent to be x-rayed, along with any overhead luggage and parcels you wish to bring onboard the aircraft. From where I was sitting I could easily see over the Transit Setting Authenticators officer’s shoulder and see the x-ray scans quite clearly, so much so, in fact I could identify most of the items contained in the various tubs and parcels.
The now streamlined passengers next wait in line for the now infamous body scanner as their sanitized and approved earthly goods continue parallel to them into the secure area. One by one they enter a circular chamber much like an elevator. Once inside the curved glass doors swing shut and the hapless passenger is prompted to raise their hands in a seemingly symbolic gesture of surrender. Here their innermost secrets and perhaps even their religion is revealed to the ogling eyes of the Federal Agent, or in the case of some of the more attractive passengers, several agents. Fortunately, or not, depending on your own prurient point of view, this is obscured from the public vision from the corridor in which I was sitting, as the scanner screen faces into the secure area. That said, however, there was at times more than one agent delightedly eyeing the scanner screen.
Meantime, it is on to the third and final, at least from my vantage point, Transit Setting Authenticators hurdle. This was the wanding and pat-downs so vilified in the alternative and even the pop media these days. Not every passenger gets the privilege of going through this particular scrutiny, however. It would seem this is random or possibly triggered off of the boarding passes by random markers, as happened to me in 2004 on my last domestic flight. Sometimes these are also triggered by medical implants such as joint replacements or pins of various sorts. It is here that a passenger is positioned spread-eagle while he is wanded, patted-down or both, seemingly dependent on which side of the bed the agent woke up on.
At this point, the passengers with a great and obvious look of relief are reunited with their worldly goods, at least mostly, according to some media reports; and hopefully all is intact and in working order. They now pass to the inner waiting area where only secure and sanitize passengers may enter and await final boarding. Bear in mind that this all is accompanied by loud speaker info on how to pack, (no one should pack for you), and present to the authorities all items of travel. Thus begins the saga of modern travel.
To my observing eyes travel today is not only no longer gracious but entails intrusive, demeaning, and degradingly immodest gawking and probing by a government that is supposed to represent your interests, not lord it over you. The sad thing is that while predominately restricted to air transport, it is clear that such procedures will soon become part of any and all transport venues from trains and buses to ocean port and even random pedestrian and highway traffic check points. The sadder aspect of this is that the average citizen has been conditioned to accept this as a nanny-state security measure designed to protect them rather than as an infringement of their rights of privacy.
While watching all the above occur before my very eyes, I was reminded of my old parochial school days at St. Anthony’s and the admonishments of the good and holy nuns on the evils of Communism and the collective state with its travel restrictions. Those pious nuns anxiously informed us of how travel was closely watched and assessed by government; how children were taken away from families to be raised by government, much like our current day care; how wives and mothers were sent into the work force to compete with men at all manner of work; how women were in combat positions in the military, which couldn’t be imagined at the time. Assuredly what I was now witnessing was clearly the part of the errors of Russia which Our Lady had warned of.
Readers may ask but what can we do? We have no other choice! However, we have examples all around us, for example we have the so-called stay-at-home-moms, whose priority is on forming souls for Christ and acting as a clear example to their children that they support the hard-working husbands and fathers of the families. These courageous families stand and say I will resist. I will put my trust in the Lord and live in a Christian family unit as proclaimed by the Church for millennia. Many have taught their children trades rather than send them to colleges where their innocence is forever lost; many others homeschool, because they will not expose their children to the poison of the modern education systems. Still others form loose rural communities where they can live integral lives of Faith where the mother remains in the home and the father works on the land and close to the family. Clearly there are ways to defeat this spreading of error, but assuredly it takes sacrifice, Faith, and commitment; a commitment to both family and Faith that some will not make.
In addition, we have recourse to Our Blessed Lady’s promise that in the end her Immaculate Heart will triumph. We, however, must do our part by exemplifying our Catholic ideals and praying the Rosary for the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Remember, when things appear most bleak is when God intervenes for those who are Faithful and live the Faith, not just talk the talk it.
Richard of Danbury, D.S.G.