I don’t expect any empathy related to my destination, but I do know others who share my concern about the “full-body scanners” used at many terminals, such as my own SeaTac Airport.
Naturally, as an older retired military officer, I’m always a prime candidate for being directed to pass through the scanner. And that’s the part that I don’t mind. I want the Transportation Security Administration to be thorough. I enjoy the prospect of landing safely at the end of an uneventful flight. And, because of my desire to be protected from terrorists, I don’t mind having to submit to an additional search.
What I am concerned about is my health. I’m not greatly comforted by claims that these “extremely high frequency radio waves” emitted by millimeter wave scanners are not harmful. And the sister technology, “backscatter x-ray” doesn’t sound any healthier. I’m no scientist, but I recall having heard that many types of radiation are cumulative, and when you add traveling to medical and dental x-rays, cell phones, law enforcement radar guns, and the radon that permeated the military housing my wife and I shared for two years in Illinois . . . well, I am slightly concerned.
Health matters aside, the concern which elicits most criticism relates to the scanners as a violation of “privacy.” Truth is, the images they produce leave little to the imagination. However, there’s no possible way for that “faceless” person to actually be associated with you. Regulations, in fact, do not allow for the images to be preserved at all. So, while inspectors in a shielded room may make some passing ribald remark about the “naked” image on their screen, they have no idea what the person’s face even looks like. Thus, I’m not bothered at all by the so-called privacy concern.
Not that privacy is unimportant. It is crucial to life in a free society. We experience precious little privacy in our lives. C.S. Lewis talked about how our lives are enmeshed in a world of crowds and clamor. The following comes from The Four Loves.
Our imitation of God in this life—that is, our willed imitation as distinct from any of the likenesses which He has impressed upon our natures or states—must be an imitation of God incarnate: our model is the Jesus, not only of Calvary, but of the workshop, the roads, the crowds, the clamorous demands and surly oppositions, the lack of all peace and privacy, the interruptions. For this, so strangely unlike anything we can attribute to the Divine life in itself, is apparently not only like, but is, the Divine life operating under human conditions.
The Irony about Privacy in the Modern Age
This fact makes our willingness to reveal ourselves so openly in social media rather ironic. We need privacy—and the less we experience, the more valuable it becomes. Yet, we also desire to be known by others—for in some twisted way this has become synonymous in the modern world with “important.” Yes, the more hits my Facebook page has, the more likes my post receives, the more followers my blog has, the more important I am. And, the more important I am, the less lonely and forgotten I feel.
Loneliness feels terrible. Human beings were created to be in relationships. First with our Father in heaven. And then with our family, friends and neighbors. There is nothing quite so comforting as having someone who knows our imperfections and shortcomings and still loves us. God loves us that way. And, if we are fortunate, we find others willing to overlook our failings and still love us. We can’t find that kind of deep affection in shallow channels like the internet. When we cast wide the net in social media, so to speak, if we are fortunate we’ll catch a rare treasure in the form of a genuine relationship that enriches our life.
Back to the Status of the Invasive Scanners
Apparently, the complaints of those who feel violated by scanners producing a naked image of the travelers passing through them, have been heard. Apparently the TSA intends to replace them with “less invasive” models. In fact, the generic images the new machines produce have been likened to stick figures or cartoons. Presumably they’ll still be able to detect the foreign objects secreted in or on a criminal’s body.
In the meantime, we don’t have to worry about having our naked likeness published on the internet. Instead we’ll all look like cartoons or, perhaps, famous personages. That’s what inspired me to use the Alfred Hitchcock image above. I can visualize my next visit to the airport and almost overhear the hidden inspectors saying, “nothing to ogle here, just another Hitchcock passing through the scanner.”