Airport hysteria

The recent events on the Detroit bound flight have sent airports and airlines in a hysterical state with all sorts of new restrictions and security procedures which have not and will not work. It will just make more people frustrated. Don’t get me wrong. I am quite pleased that all those passengers, especially travelling to and from the U.S. will no longer be able to carry all of their worldly possessions onboard the plane and try to cram them into the space above MY seat! But the example of the recent terrorist sewing the explosives into his underwear tells us that hassling some old lady about her latte should not be the focus of security.

Technology can help with this problem. People are talking all about those new machines that can see you basically naked. People are upset about this invasion of privacy.  Hey, who the heck cares? I don’t care if, for a serious reason someone sees me “virtually” naked. I’m naked in front of my doctor and I naked at the gym getting changed, so what’s the big deal?  Do you really think that the person doing the screening is getting kicks out of that job?

There’s another piece of technology that is not being mentioned very much. It’s the kind of “puffer” machine that you go through at the CN Tower. You step into the cubicle. A photo is taken of your face and then these puffs of air are blown on your clothes and analyzed to detect explosives’ residue. If you’re clear it lets you exit the cubicle. This machine would have picked up the explosives that young man was carrying. It’s quick and painless.  Hey, can you imagine adding a metal detector to this cubicle? You would have a heck of a machine, no?

Technology, as an expression of human creativity is great, but it can only go so far. Eventually you need to use the real thing… the human! You need not just intellect and reasoning but also intuition. We can only succeed if we employ some of the same approaches that El Al uses to screen its flights. Some complain that this process is offensive. I’ve not found it so. In Tel Aviv it’s another story.. the security people there can be quite rude. But flying out of Toronto I have found El Al security pretty good at what they do. Are we willing to invest in people rather than only machinery?

Investing in people is the ultimate solution. I’m not talking about screening here, but of preventing these attacks in the first place. Some wacked individuals you cannot stop. You have to have security.  But there is a lot we can do to help prevent young men (and they are mostly young men) from becoming radicalized. The solution is simple, it’s gospel based and was put succinctly by Pope Paul VI: “If you want peace, work for justice.

If you don’t believe me or think I am naive, watch a film like Syriana with George Clooney. So many people flock to countries where they can make a lot of money fast and live a lifestyle of excessive consumption even beyond that of North Americans… yet it is supported by a class of workers paid almost nothing and with few rights. This is the modern day version of slavery. Do we expect young people to accept this slavery for long?  As Pope John Paul II mentioned in one of his homilies while in Canada in 1984, and speaking about the economic disparity between the northern and southern hemispheres… he said that eventually the south will rise to take what is rightly their share. It won’t be pretty, and it’s starting.

Or how about places like Afghanistan where we go in with our NATO forces to do what’s necessary (and I support our presence there 100%), but forget to work to rebuild the economy or we allow corruption to dominate? Gerard Kennedy when he was running for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada was one of the few to really talk about this issue. We can’t just go in and burn people’s poppy fields and then not give them another crop to grow that will feed their children.  Are we willing to pay a few more dollars for our flowers or other produce so that parents in Afghanistan can get a fare wage and feed their children? I think so.

In too many countries in the world young men and women live without the hope of a better future. They can watch TV and see an idealized version of life in North America and know that they will NEVER come anywhere near living like that.  We taunt them and then insult them and wonder why some become bitter about “the West”.  Imagine if your vision of life in Canada or the US was based only on what you see on Desperate Housewives? What would you think of our society?

As Christians we must look at the deeper issues and find real solutions. That’s the wonder of the Canadian church’s Development and Peace organization. We need to do more development. But unfortunately, it is easier to focus on the latte grandma is trying to take on board the plane or to keep the man with the bladder problem from going to the bathroom in the last hour of a flight. It’s sad. We can do so much better… for our security and for young people everywhere.