Primitive Superstitions

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I recently
returned to the U.S. from a vacation to Mexico and my mal-experience
with the Transportation Security Administration afforded me an opportunity
to reflect on one of the many absurd things most Americans accept
without question.

Passing through
Sanford Airport near Orlando, FL, I was selected for the "Full
Monty" by TSA. Late for a connecting flight and rather short
on patience, the extended pat down (which included the Chief Groper
running his fingers along the inside of my front waistband)
seemed to accentuate my hearing. I actually overheard someone say
that they felt safer for all the intrusiveness. Since I love analogies,
I came up with one that I believe captures the delusional nature
of this view.

if one is looking for a needle in haystacks, and haystacks are
passing through one's presence on an hourly basis. Would anyone
grab a random handful of each haystack that passed by and expect
to find said needle by examining in minute detail each
piece of hay in that handful?

Of course not.
Yet most air travelers think an invasive search of a 45-year-old
man traveling with his wife and kids, or running a rod down the
skin-tight top between the breasts of a pretty 16-year-old blond
girl with a tan and painted nails (all 20 of them – I counted)
makes them safer. I might join the march in the streets protesting
this idiocy, but of course I'd be the only one on parade. My fellow
citizens might even be provoked by my lack of support for our nation's
hardworking security people.

We all hear
and read how we all will somehow benefit as the government takes
over more and more elements of our lives. The notion that the government
is best equipped to control everything from product safety to national
defense and from environmental protection to education seems to
be almost universally accepted. Part of the unanimity of this view
may stem from our major news organs' almost total reliance
on government officials and politicians for their stories, but I
could be wrong. Maybe it's not just that they're lazy sloths.

Well over a
thousand years ago Mayans performed a serious ritual in the Ball
at Chichen-Itza in the Yucatan Peninsula. They endeavored
to put a heavy rubber ball through a stone ring without using their
hands, an act associated with protecting the Sun as their astronomer-priests
told of its passage through a dangerous part of the universe. As
I understood our Mayan tour guide, their people took this process
very seriously, probably no less so than the TSA grope-master who
"protected" my flight by the laying on of hands (on me,
that is, while his female counterpart "sanctified" that
pretty teenager). All that was missing from my experience were the
scary mask and magic totems. On second thought, maybe magic
were in use after all, and the guy's face was, I suppose,
a little

At the end
of my Mexican stay (before my undesired, intimate episode with that
strange TSA man) I stood in line at Cancun's airport and waited
for my checked baggage to be laboriously hand-searched (no doubt
an FAA requirement for planes headed to U.S. airports) while those
lucky Canadians on a direct flight to Edmonton walked straight to
their check-in without the lines and the hassles. (The government
in Ottawa apparently spends less time aggravating people in other
lands…gee, how lucky are we in the U.S. to have our officials in
Washington DC create new adventures for us continuously.)

today's obvious similarities to the rituals and superstitions of
people who lived long ago. From newspaper publishers and Harvard
Ph.D.'s to Mrs. Grundy living next door, people we share this country
with haven't
much over the centuries, have they? They're still sacrificing
much of their harvest to the Gods (well, the warrior/priests take
it and we assume pass it along) and performing human sacrifices
(lots and lots of them in Iraq and Afghanistan these days) to insure
our group's continued success. So must it be – our warrior/priests
in Washington DC's big
stone temples
tell us so.

August 12, 2005

Calderwood [send him
] a businessman, artist, and author of the novel Revolutionary
, selected January 2000 Freedom Book of the Month

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