Pinky Pie

Security (Except For The Airport) Is A Warm Blanket & Me

Posted on: November 30, 2010

Walking into the terminal at Kansas City International Airport at 5 a.m. Sunday, we heard the usual announcements about security: “The Department of Homeland Security has determined that our threat level is Orange.”

I’m not sure what we are supposed to do with that information other than be perpetually scared and to never accept candy or packages from strangers, particularly at airports. Oh, yes we will always put our hand cream in a clear plastic bag and remove our shoes.

Thanksgiving came in the midst of that big controversy about just how secure we want to be. Video of an exchange between a TSA agent and passenger went viral on YouTube. It became the lead story on the network news programs and of course the 24-hour news networks.

The big question was whether to accept the small risk of radiation or the body search that apparently gets so friendly that the passenger on the YouTube video said, “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.”

And watching one tackle during the Green Bay Packers game led my son to suggest the player was “going TSA” on another player. It was a great line.

We were dropping off Michael at the airport for his return to Atlanta. He said later that when he told that to the TSA agent, she said they didn’t have those machines. He went through security without even a single pat-down. I’m not sure if he was disappointed or not.

The KCI couldn’t have the body scanner because it is way too organized for that. It is designed to get people in and out of the airport quickly. There are security stations for every concourse, which meant no winding, long lines of frustrated flyers.  Thus, the airport would have to have too many of those scanners.

When he arrived in Kansas City last Tuesday, Michael practically walked off the plane into the family fan club, holding goofy signs with his name as if we didn’t know whom we would pick up. Again, the airport design allows for that efficiency.

And speaking of the hubbub about the security procedures in the country, what do we want as a nation? How much security is the right amount? How much inconvenience are we willing to accept?

In Israel, passengers have to come to the airport three hours before their flights. Miles before the airport, the search of vehicles begins. Passengers are interviewed and their bags are thoroughly searched. Sometimes, passengers are taken to private rooms for even more thorough checks.

I would not want to do that and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted she would not want to have a TSA pat-down “if I could avoid it!”

Who wouldn’t? But I think there is a higher good in terms of our safety to walk through the machine or being frisked. And I do know the stories about the woman with prosthetic breasts because of breast cancer surgery and of the patient whose urine is collected in a bag reported he was treated so roughly that the bag broke and urine escaped all over him.

No one wants that either.  I think with training, the TSA could perform that pat-down in a more sensitive way.

Many hold up the Israel process as the good standard for airport security.  Nahum Liss of the Israeli Airports Authority said, “In the U.S., profiling is a bad word,” but he said it is done by “intelligent, motivated” university students who served in Israel’s military and can identify passengers who could pose a potential risk.

Earlier this year Juan Williams, a National Public Radio news analyst was fired for admitting something to Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, where he also is a news analyst. He said he sometimes gets nervous when he sees people on planes that appear to be Muslim. Specifically he said, “[P]olitical correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality. I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

When we flew last month to Atlanta, a passenger who looked Muslim appeared to covering his mouth as he spoke into his cell phone before we took off.

I felt nervous – just like Juan Williams said – and then I stuffed that feeling down because I didn’t like that feeling in myself.

I do believe in political correctness. I would rather error on the side of sensitivity. That’s who I am.

We want security in this country without being personally bothered by it. We send soldiers off to wars without making sacrifices back home unless we have loved ones in those wars.

We have announcements about the threat level orange and have no idea what to do with them. And a moment after that message came a voice suggesting we follow KCI on Twitter and to “fan” the airport’s page on Facebook.

I don’t have any answers to how much security is the right amount of security but in his first inaugural address in 1861, Abraham Lincoln addressed the issues of slavery and succession of the South from the union. He asked for time and patience and closed with these words about the need to remember we are one nation, whether we live in the North or South.

He encouraged us to seek “the better angels of our nature.” That’s something that should be remember nearly 150 years later.

(The full quote from Lincoln is at


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