A weary-looking TSA official asked me why I opted out of the full-body scanner at the airport recently. As always, I responded that it is against my religion. The haunting lyrics from a Larry Norman song waft through my head; “I was born and raised an orphan, in a land that once was free…” It used to be, when I was little, that you were innocent until proven guilty. As I stand in line at the airport, next to an eerily humming x-ray machine that is examining all my secrets, learning what I’m reading without ever having to read my blog, I watch fellow citizens step inside a sci-fi-inspired glass chamber while being bombarded with God-knows-what so that any unnatural contusions might be spotted and analyzed. They raise their hands above their heads like outlaws in the old west. We are all guilty now, until proven innocent. If you are Trayvon Martin, you pay for the assumption of guilt with your life. Don’t worry, Mr. Zimmerman, you’ll be acquitted.
In my darker moments, I wonder who benefits from a government that keeps increasing amounts of data on its citizens while cutting programs to ensure their comfort and health. We have elected a police force, not officials of the people, by the people, for the people. Vigilantes can literally get away with murder, as long as the skin-tone algorithm is correct, but if you’re perverted enough to want to fly, you have nothing about which your government is not interested. Who is being protected here? Who is being kept safe? A stranger has his gloved hands on my crotch. I’m feeling a little more than vulnerable.
Protest is a sign of love in this troubled world. If I step inside that glass chamber and raise my arms, I am declaring that I am guilty. Let me prove my innocence to you. Technology has made our private lives so easy to scrutinize. I used to think the future envisioned by Jacques Ellul was just a touch paranoid. I’m now beginning to think he didn’t go far enough. This computer on my lap can be like a TSA official in my own home. My website visits may be traced and analyzed, and my self-publish words misconstrued. And if I go to the store at night, a stranger can follow and shoot me with the blessings of our legal system. Of what are we so afraid? Is it time to stand our ground yet?