Sunday, December 18, 2011

Security vs Freedom

A recent discussion about holiday travel led to the inevitable complaints about TSA and egregious security checks. I haven't actually flown anywhere in over three years and haven't had the pleasure of experiencing a humiliating pat-down or an invasive x-ray. My coworker, who is black, complained that he was nearly always picked for extra scrutiny. Then he shocked me by suggesting that the TSA should be focusing on Arabs, not black Americans. "I don't exactly fit the profile of a terrorist," he said.

Notwithstanding the fact that there are plenty of African nations that are predominantly Muslim, I was compelled to point out that approving racial profiling of any sort is absolutely terrible. Liberals are often falling over themselves to point out that there are plenty of dangerous white, Christian terrorists. And it's very true - mosques are torched, Muslims are terrorized and abortion clinics are routinely attacked and intimidated by right-wing lunatics who have far more in common with Pat Robertson than with al Qaeda (although, in truth, the difference is predominantly just in the name of the religion. Otherwise Christian terrorists and Muslim terrorists are very similar in their ideologies). Nevertheless, although Muslim Americans and abortionists are Americans, the attacks on our country from external forces are far more likely to be Muslim and Arab than European or Asian. If we are honest with ourselves, and if security truly is the number one concern, then we really should focus our security screenings on Arabs traveling to and from and throughout the United States. Not exclusively, perhaps, but there should be special emphasis placed on these people because they are far more likely to be involved in a terrorist plot than most other demographics.

But security is not our number one concern, nor should it be. There is a common, and fairly gross, bumper sticker traveling around the nation on the backs of pickup trucks and SUVs that reads: "Freedom ain't free." The implication being that our freedom is protected by the American military. That is, freedom is paid for by security. An entirely separate conversation can be had on that topic, but I believe that the relationship is entirely reversed. Freedom is lost to security. That is, the more freedom we have, the less security we have and vice-versa.

Right now our country is relinquishing huge tracts of personal freedoms in exchange for security. (This too can be a separate conversation, but I'll grant the premise that America is truly safer as a result of our extreme security measures, even though I don't actually believe it to be so.) Is it worth it? Is it worth relinquishing personal liberty and freedom for the sake of security? Because it is undeniable that our personal freedoms have been severely truncated over the past decade. It's a bit hyperbolic to call this country a Police State, especially when we compare it to actual police states, but we are drifting closer and closer to that point.

So this brings me back to the original point: why not profile Arabs? Because it isn't fair. Sure, we'd catch more terrorists and we'd ostensibly be safer, but we'd also curtail the freedoms of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. The TSA and the Department of Homeland Security needs to wind down a bit. Send us through metal detectors - that's a fine and fair idea. But allow liquids on the plane. Allow passengers to board with their dignity intact.

I don't know if this desire is universal, but I'd certainly rather live with a little more freedom and a little less security.

Here's the Onion to take us out. FAA Considering Passenger Ban

1 comment:

Miriam said...

I agree!!! The most "secure" person lives in solitary confinement behind bars... no one can get to him to hurt him...but who is going to argue for his freedom?