The Happiest Search on Earth
by Tricia Shore
donít know what other suburban Southern California moms Ė hereafter
referred to as the much more hip-sounding SoCal moms Ė are thinking
about when theyíre in line to have their bags searched before they
can enter the land of Disney. I know that Iím usually trying to
keep my three sons from hitting, biting, or screaming, until
we can officially become temporary royal subjects of this happy
land. But the other day was a bit different. Iíll let you in on
a secret that those of us annual SoCal passholders know about Disneyland:
Donít go when school is out! The crowds are horrendous. As a result,
I hadnít gone since the first of June, before the London bombings,
before renewal of the Patriot Act.
were in line in the late August heat to go to a two-year-oldís birthday
party. Iíll give this to the land of the mouse: Even when itís crowded,
theyíre great about getting people to the warrantless baggage search
quickly. And they are nice as they look inside your bags.
donít know why we moms so quickly and easily acquiesce to this search.
Disney has every right to do it, of course. Disney is a private
company and the land is private property, whatever that means these
days. We ticketholders have every right to refuse. But Iíve yet
to see someone turn and walk away from a Disneyland search. Perhaps
itís because we have one or two or three children to keep us distracted.
Or maybe itís because most SoCal moms have to submit to much more
humiliation when we visit our childrenís grandparents: No one was
actually born and raised in Los Angeles. We all have to herd our
children through metal detectors, taking off shoes and folding strollers
and taking off baby slings, all to show that, pregnant or nursing, we
are not terrorists but merely moms trying to get some children to
family had, in fact, just returned from my mother-in-lawís
funeral. She had died unexpectedly and my husband, trying to coordinate
flights for us all, had gotten himself a one-way ticket to Miami.
Of course, having his mother die earlier that day and trying to
rush to help and comfort his father branded him as more likely to
be a terrorist. The loving father of my children was taken aside,
wanded, and asked to do some strange thing with the top of his pants.
Nice treatment, really, for a bereaved son.
rest of us got off more lightly; we went a couple of days later
and had a round-trip ticket, branding us only slightly guilty. Still,
we worried. When youíre in the "social security" line,
as my four-year-old calls it, with a four-year-old who likes to
be funny, his two younger brothers, a tired mom who is a stand-up
comic, and a sign that says "No Jokes," well, letís just
say that we feel lucky when weíre not singled out to be groped by
a wand or by a strangerís hand. A mom alone with three children
under five feels fortunate when she is able to go to the gate
unscathed in the same strange way that we treat those piddly plane
pretzels we receive after boarding as if they were a small slice
of filet mignon. The land of the mouse seems benign and peaceful
in comparison, even with its employeesí search, for whatever.
traveled back across the country the day before the birthday party,
I was grateful for the quick search into my belongings, for
the ability to remain fully shod. I unzipped my purse and hoped
the guy peering into it wouldnít think it was too messy. My
purse must have passed muster because then he asked me to unzip
my diaper bag; he hardly peeked inside. And it was all over: We
were approved to spend money at Disneyland! What would have
happened if Iíd said no? No one with three impatient children wants
to find out. We are easy targets indeed.
curious note though Ė the "cast member," as the mouse
kingdom euphemistically calls its employees, seemed satisfied when
he saw a diaper at the top of my diaper bag, not digging more deeply.
While I am grateful for the half-trust of his cursory search, part
of me wonders if he thought I would make a dumb terrorist, one who
would not think to place any destructive device under a diaper.
Did he think I wasnít smart enough to place a diaper over
whatever contraband he was looking for?
what was it he was looking for anyway? Iíve gone to Legoland, a
couple of hours south of Anaheim, and am treated as though I am
not at all a criminal. No one snoops through anything at Legoland
and I've yet to hear of one terrorist act there.
I want to search the pocketbook of everyone who comes into my private
home, I certainly can, but how many friends would I have then?
And would I want to be a friend to someone who searched my bag before
I entered his or her home?
Americans are a trustworthy bunch, though. If Disneylandís doing
it, it must be for our own good. Besides, weíve got so much other
stuff to think about. It was easy to let myself go through the cursory
glance into my belongings. Whatís a little freedom traded for a
birthday party? Besides, we were so tired after lugging everyone
to the tram, off the tram, to the baggage check line, and then through
the actual entry gate, that we had no time to think about Disneyís
motives after our arrival. Like a Beta-Minus from Brave New World,
we assumed it was for our own good and found it easier to acquiesce
than to question or refuse or turn around. After all, we had a Buzz
Lightyear ride to catch.
the parade was over that evening and I had desperately searched
for our car, having completely forgotten which Disney character
level I parked on, I drove home with three sleeping children in
the backseat. Itís times like these, when the cell phone is off,
that give a suburban mom time to ponder such things as constitutional
rights and freedom.
ponder I did, as I thought about the ease with which I had acquiesced
to the opening of my purse and diaper bag. What if I hadnít allowed
the unzipping? Would we have been denied entry to the land
of the mouse? Would any mom risk driving children to Anaheim and
having her children not go to Disneyland?
canít be too terribly different for the New York subway commuters,
many of whom seem more than happy to be unzipped, groped, or otherwise
searched, all at the mayorís whim. Theyíre in a hurry; they have
to go to work; they have to go home. Sure, you can say no, but why
would you Ė especially when doing so might mess up your evening?
And I couldnít help but think that maybe, just maybe, when my children
watch their mom unzipping her purse for a stranger for some vague
reason that is unknown to my children and to me, that my children
become desensitized to the whole search thing.
also remembered what another cast member had said during my
unzipping; I heard her tell another potential royal subject that
the area past the royal checkpoint is called the "safe zone."
Those are her exact Orwellian words. If we sacrifice willingly a
bit of freedom, then we gain safety. And a birthday party. Perhaps
thatís the lesson of the Brave New America, the post-9/11 society
in which we live. We said it was okay to sacrifice freedom when
our elected congressmen approved the Patriot Act. And then again,
we said for them to take away a few more freedoms when they renewed
the Patriot Act, right after the London bombings. After all, we
gain safety, right?
our new search-filled country, the "unreasonable searches and
seizures" that our Constitution says we are "secure"
against, seem much more reasonable. Indeed, we all become so desensitized
to the search process itself that we willingly acquiesce, whether
the search is constitutional or not. We have nothing to hide, after
all, so why not allow that warrantless policeman, or social worker,
or whatever, into our home? After all, a search is merely a prelude
to the Happiest Place on Earth!
Shore [send her mail]
is the Comic Mom.
© 2005 LewRockwell.com