We Are Afraid of the Wrong Things!

by DavalosMcCormack on November 23, 2010

There are lots of things to be afraid of these days; poverty, pestilence, President Sarah Palin. And if you need help finding a few more then just pick up your local daily newspaper or turn on your local TV news; they’re filled with crime and fires and fears and tears and loathing. Plenty of fodder for fear there.

But some people are determined to go the extra mile, and start getting scared about things that really should be way down on the list of likely threats – down around the level of being attacked by Godzilla for instance. I”m talking about the new security measures at airports.

TSA – Touching Someone’s Ass!

Now, I’m no lover of what I think can sometimes be the overly heavy handed security measures at airports in the U.S. For instance, taking off my shoes to pass through security has always struck me as silly – they don’t require it in other countries and they seem to be doing just fine – but I consider it a mere inconvenience and a relatively small price to pay for the convenience of actually getting where you are going to in one piece – always high on my list of holiday goals.

Full body scanner image

Recently the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) introduced new, tighter, screening methods. You have the choice of going through a full body scan machine, or getting a thorough pat down – and by thorough I mean of the kind that only your doctor would dream of doing and probably not even then!

Neither choice is much fun and I sympathize with concerns about violating someone’s religious beliefs or civil rights (I am after all a member of the ACLU) but when people start saying we shouldn’t have to do the body scans because they put our health, even our very lives at risk? I’ve have to wonder if it’s their brain that should be scanned not their body.

Naked Threat

The fears seem to center on the fact that these devices fire a beam of radiation at the passenger, and that allows security officials to see through their clothes and detect anything they might have hidden on their body. But some people are saying that exposure to this radiation – even at the very low-levels used in these devices, and they are very low indeed – could put us at increased risk of cancer.

OK, I know x-rays have been linked to DNA damage and that exposure to enough radiation over long enough periods can ultimately produce cancer. But to go from that statement to say that the new screening devices therefore are putting us at risk of cancer is absurd. You actually are exposed to more radiation flying at 30,000 feet than you are going through the scanner.

Secondly, look around you at all the things people do every day that put them at much greater risk of cancer or other serious health problems than going through airport security. Take the food they eat for instance. More than 60 percent of Americans are overweight or even obese, that puts them at higher risk of heart disease or stroke, diabetes, even cancer. You want to reduce your health risks, do something about that.

Millions more Americans smoke or drink to excess. Millions get little or no exercise. Millions eat little or no fresh fruits or vegetables on a regular basis. Those are every day threats to your health.

Secure in our Insecurities

You are more likely to die in the car on your way to the airport than suffer any ill effects of going through a security scanner. And think about it, what’s the first thing people do when they get on a plane. They chow down on the free pretzels that they are given by flight attendants. Sugar, fat, salt. All in one tasty package. And you think an airport scanner is a problem?

Why is it we worry about things that really aren’t a problem, and ignore those that are? Partly it’s because issues like airport security and body-revealing scans are in the news, they get our attention. The other issues such as diet and exercise are rather boring, we have been hearing about them for years, so we no longer pay attention to¬† them.

My mate Michael has a novel approach to all the hullabaloo over the new screening methods. He says those who want to can get the full-body scan. Those who don’t can get the full body pat down. But for an extra $50 you get someone really cute or handsome to do it. That way the government makes a few extra bucks and you at least get to enjoy the experience!

There are lots of things to be afraid of. We really don’t need to go out and create new ones.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Diane E November 23, 2010 at 8:08 am

Great column — I totally agree with you on every point. And I love your list of real fears!


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