“The function of the checkpoints is to show who’s boss,” points out Richard Ben Cramer, referring to security practices he witnessed during a visit to Israel more than a decade ago. The purpose of a checkpoint isn’t to protect the public, but to teach them to submit to “authority.”
At one checkpoint, Cramer became annoyed by the dehumanizing scrutiny inflicted on people who were obviously neither criminals nor potential terrorists — such as elderly people in wheelchairs. Catching the attention of one of the soldiers on the scene, Cramer asked why helpless people were being treated in that fashion.
“Because the bad attitude — you know?” replied the guard, who was newly arrived from Russia and didn’t speak either Hebrew or English very well. “If they are acting like they are good, and we are the bad one. Then, you must show them control.”
This is the mantra of the checkpoint guard:
You must show them control.
You must make them submit.
You must force them to recognize the innate superiority of those who represent the Almighty State.
This is the real function of checkpoints, wherever they exist. And the mindset of checkpoint guards is the same, whether in Israel, your nearby airport, or at your local DUI or seatbelt compliance roadblock.
On occasion, the hoi polloi rebel against the routine abuse we suffer at the hands of our supposed masters. Daniel Knauf describes how he instigated a blessed revolt of that kind at LAX (his comments are lightly edited for the sake of decorum):
So I’m standing in the b******t “security theater” line at LAX (does anybody else think the dumbest, most dangerous place an a**hole terrorist would try anything is a commercial flight full of people like me who are just itching to legally kick anyone to death who tries anything?) behind the incredibly beautiful Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura on the original Star Trek. At 81, she’s still as gracious, classy and lovely as ever.
Unfortunately, as is the case for many people her age, she has some mobility problems and was seated in a wheelchair as we approached the metal detector. With some difficulty, she got out of the chair to go through the machine, and the TSA Officer waiting on the other side ordered her to take off her shoes. (Who the f**k designed the TSA uniforms? Idi-f*****g-Amin? G-d, they’re embarrassing. With all the epaulets and ribbons and that horrible blue, they look like a bunch of deposed third-world eleventy-star generals. But I digress…)
So when this officious prick asked the Single-Woman-on-Earth-Least-Likely-to-Be-a-Terrorist to remove her shoes, despite her clearly limited mobility, I said (very loudly), “Sir! That woman is a Star Fleet Communications Officer! She is WAY above your pay-grade! How DARE you ask her to remove her shoes?!”
At this, all the other people waiting in line cheered and applauded, and the dick-wad was shamed into waving her through. It was an awesome moment, and I won’t soon forget the expression of pure bliss on Miss Nichols’ face as she soaked up all that love, attention and support from her fans in line–which were pretty much EVERYBODY in line.
(Thanks to LRC reader — and fellow unreconstructed Trek-dork — Mark Carroll.)10:17 am on December 3, 2014 Email William Norman Grigg