… America, how far hast thee fallen?
How better to embarrass an American than to intimate that he is a terrorist?
So, I wanted to fly into my native home of Cambria County, and did so without a problem. Flying back out of the airport in Johnstown, Pa., to return to the Upper Midwest, though, outraged me and provided me with a question about how far America has fallen from its original values in the 21st Century.
The flight was small, with fewer than 20 passengers — 19 if my math was correct. The staff at United Airlines was cordial and professional.
Not so the Transportation Security Agency employee who decided to spray my hands.
I was shocked. She knew my age because she told me that I could keep my shoes on, one of the benefits of reaching the three-quarter century mark.
However, what was it about me that indicated that I or someone in my family could have been members of al-Queda, that infamous terroristic group led by Osama bin Laden, the one who has cost us trillions of dollars and thousands of lives — because of the incompetence of the American government.
The one who roamed free throughout the world for a full decade before an American president decided to capture him.
Is this hyperbole?
All she did was spray my hands.
Why mine? Most of the rest of the passengers were young, and arguably, more likely than I to be a terrorist.
That is not fair to young people, perhaps, but you will get the drift after reading this.
This is a legitimate grievance.
Misplaced anger in America
Think of what has occurred in America. People have been fighting with the professional, dedicated airline employees on planes because they had to wear a mask to protect the millions of other Americans who were flying from a deadly disease? They physically beat these poor employees who were simply doing their jobs.
Yet they failed to protest against the most egregious invasion of person freedom in the history of America. The ironically-named USA PATRIOT ACT.
Perhaps this woman was just doing her job, too, so I did not complain when she humiliated me in front of the other passengers sitting waiting to board the plane.
They had to know that swabbing a person’s hands or spraying them is an attempt to determine whether or not that person has evidence of having been in contact with explosives. They are not stupid.
I had to research it to see if there was some other reason for the spraying of my hands — and waiting and holding up the line until the test was returned.
I found that the only reason for doing so was to search for explosives.
As I stood there, I realized, “TSA-Johnstown feels that I am a potential terrorist.”
This is symbolic of the degradation of America and its citizens.
If that was an isolated incident, perhaps I would feel otherwise.
For example, I have flown out of the Johnstown Airport twice in the past year. Once last September, and once in May 2022.
In both instances, my one bag was searched — physically, not just technologically.
You might say, “That is the price we pay to fly safely.”
I say, “Garbage.”
“That is the price we pay for an incompetent group of politicians who cannot keep us safe and who have taken away our freedoms.”
And, what angers me about TSA-Johnstown is that when I arrived back in Minnesota, I not only had a little slip telling me that they had invaded my privacy — a right that some of the US Supreme Court justices say does not exist — but I discovered that the bag was in total disarray.
I know it because the bag was a mess. Things completely upset, clothes that had been neatly packed and carefully stacked in the bag had been thoroughly disrupted — and not returned to their original position.
It did not happen that way in Johnstown in the early years.
I thought about an instance in the early 2000s, after bin Laden had warned America that he was going to attack us — “Bin Laden determined to strike in US” [Presidential Daily Briefing, August 6, 2001, more than a month before the attack]. I had forgotten my driver’s license when flying out of Johnstown Airport. It had not yet been ingrained into my psyche.
The two young women who were working for TSA at the time and were charged with preventing a terroristic attack — called me over before going through my bag.
They were superbly professional, apologized for having to do so, and allowed me to watch as they did so. I told them that I realized that it was just their job, and even laughed about it. They were friendly, courteous, kind, and put everything back where it belonged.
Not so TSA-Johnstown, circa 2022. They never informed me about examining my bag, just placed a little card in my bag indicating that they had violated my privacy when they knew that I could not complain.
Last year before I left, I heard some loud voices near the TSA invasion of privacy area in Johnstown. I saw a young, well-dressed, professional-looking woman who was outraged that these people were going through her most intimate things in her bag and told the agent in no uncertain terms what she thought of the invasion.
Of course, they found nothing.
The young woman, like this 75-year-old man, was essentially accused of being a terrorist. The Founding Fathers tried to protect us against this. The violation is enshrined in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Warrants are needed when law enforcement investigates a potential crime.
In order to obtain a warrant, you need "probably cause" that a crime may be committed or may have been committed.
Did she really believe that there was probable cause that I was a terrorist?
That standard is what the Founding Fathers envisioned would happen in America if this amendment was not added to the Constitution, and it did two centuries later.
However, that constitutional violation of our freedoms was legalized by the U.S. politicians who are in the pocket of the Federalist Society, a fascist-leaning organization that would like to undo the entire Bill of Rights — with one exception.
That is called the US Patriot Act, and the so-called patriots who complained about wearing a mask during a pandemic as an overreach by government said nothing when this egregious violation of American civil liberties was passed.
And they do not complain about it today.
Why didn't the anti-maskers go ballistic about the Patriot Act and the invasion of our privacy?
Criminals are now given more rights than the average Americans because of that legislation.
The young woman was right
At the time in September 2021, I thought that it was an overreaction by a young woman.
Today, I realize that the young woman had a valid point.
In fact, I should be outraged. I have never owned a firearm — not today — never. My dad did not hunt, so we had no sporting weapons.
I never felt the need to own a firearm in my life — and I never will.
Yet, a 75-year-old man was forced to place his hands in front of him and show that he was not a terrorist.
She could have apologized like the women who went through my bags a few decades ago.
The woman probably had had a quota — of one — and since I was toward the end of the line, she figured that I would not complain about it.
She was wrong.
This is my complaint.
And for those who might say this is political, you’re damn right it is.
And it went beyond one party. The person whose name is on the airport was not exactly a great supporter of the individual rights of Americans.
However, I remember the national security advisor who was warned by the CIA Director about bin Laden attacking American about two months before he attacked and later said, “But the PDB did not tell us where he was going to attack.”
And who was exonerated despite failing to inform the U.S. government that an attack was coming, who did not inform the FBI and Congress that this attack was predicted, and who did not inform that American people that their country should be on high alert.
So, after the fact, the Patriot Act was passed, and here we are, closer to Orwell’s “1984” condemnation of the Soviet Union then even Orwell could have imagined about 75 years ago.
I have been so much outraged at the degradation of Amerca that I seriously considered moving to Canada a few years ago. Had Covid not intervened, I might have. The Canadians seem to reflect the values of America better than American politicians in the 21st Century.
Today, we have technology that can make is safe without eliminating our freedoms — but the Patriot Act still reins supreme.
And today, it is time to repeal the most egregious violation of American civil liberties in history.
And to admit that bin Laden won the war with America.