Body Scanners and Why They Worry Me, Part II

Continued from here.

This is what I know: nearly a decade ago, several men hijacked passenger jets and flew planes into buildings in New York City and Washington D.C. Those buildings fell and many people died. Since then, we’ve been at war, and other people have tried to fly planes into buildings, have tried to use the gravity-defying metal cylinders that have made our world so much smaller, as weapons, as symbols, as messages of hate and of destruction.

And I know, though it deeply saddens and frightens me, that such attempts will continue.

I also know that I value my freedom, and my privacy, and my health. I value my freedom not only to movement and travel but also my freedom to decide how my body is treated, and by whom; my freedom to decide to what (and in front of whom) my body is exposed, as well as the time and place of that exposure.

I know all too well what it’s like to feel that I’ve been searched, scanned or touched unfairly, unjustly, or unwillingly, and I do not want to surrender my right to object to any such treatment, whether it’s a lurid glance from a man on the street, or a female TSA agent in a frosted glass room yards away from me scanning an image of my body–one more detailed and complete that I, perhaps, will ever see of myself–for hidden explosives.

I know that safety is good, and that I like to feel safe, but body scanners don’t make me feel more safe, they make me feel less so. And they make me feel like I’m being asked to sacrifice something I shouldn’t have to in order to board a plane and fly wherever it’s going. I worry about what I’ll be asked to sacrifice next, which smaller journeys will become more difficult. I know that the fact that for me, these are still simply worries, and not well-established realities, means I’m immensely lucky.

Despite the strength of my own opinions, what I believe is most important here is actually not that we form a strong and united opposition to what can easily be understood as an infringement–if not a violation–of our4th amendment rights. Instead, I just want us all to pay attention. To watch what is happening to and around us, and to reflect, form our own opinions, and vocalize them. Whatever we do, we should not let anything so sweeping and important simply happen—we should think about it, and about its repercussions for our travel, for the health of our bodies, and the health of our minds, and maybe most importantly, for the effects it will have on how we think about and treat one another, not only within the bounds of airport terminals and airplane cabins, but everywhere, all across our proudly and problematically globalized world.

So if you care about this—and I hope you do—don’t be silent. Read something. Talk to someone. Write something. Write to me, if you want. Or to your best friend, or your father, or your senator. But please don’t think that this isn’t important…please don’t simply decide you don’t care. I’ve often felt like traveling has immeasurably deepened the way that I care about the world, and I really believe this is an issue which threatens not just my ability to travel, but the world I travel in itself.

A lot is at stake. At the very least, I want to talk about this. Even if that makes me just another shrilling member of that distasteful and unaccommodating chorus known as the vocal minority.

Born in the Adirondack mountains of upstate New York, Margaret has always felt awed by the world’s most beautiful places, and driven to see as many of them as possible. Since graduating from college in 2009, she’s been reading, writing, and wandering across the world indulging in her love of long train rides, learning how to say “excuse me” in as many languages as possible, deciphering time tables and metro maps, and carrying far too many books around in her backpack. Having traveled through parts of the US, Europe, Australia and the Middle East, she’s decided that feeling properly well-traveled is a bit like feeling truly well-read: practically impossible, but a goal well-worth pursuing anyway!

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  1. I agree…these body scanners are creepy. I feel like big brother is on the loose here. I haven’t had the opportunity to travel since the new scanners and invasive pat-downs started. I may be traveling a lot more by train the future.

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