I was on my way out of town on business when I was stopped at the airport TSA screening area. I had previously been on vacation with my family and had neglected to take a knife out of my backpack. It’s a Kudu folder by Cold Steel. It has a four inch, locking blade. It’s light, sharp and useful, so I often take it along on trips. (Not in my carry-on, mind you.)
I waited as the TSA agent called her supervisor and explained the situation. Thankfully, she returned it to me, along with a multi-tool that was also in the bag. She told me that I could take it to my car. But before I left, she made her point. ‘You could have been fined for this. Or put on a list.’
Well there it was. The endless threat of modern government. Financial punishment for an administrative ‘crime,’ and the never-ending, ever-expanding, much-beloved list. I had a schedule to meet and had already been delayed by my airplane’s mechanical trouble. I bit my lip.
What I wanted to say, however, was ‘list? Which list? The NSA list? The IRS list? The naughty list? And if you mean the Verizon list, I’m already a Verizon customer, so I suspect my data already populates that list!’
I walked to the door to go out of security and apologized. ‘I’m really sorry, it was an accident.’ Her reply: ‘Sir, that’s what everyone says.’
I responded, ‘No, it’s true. I just forgot about it.’
Her retort: ‘You know, sir, people bring guns in here and they say the same thing.’
I offered her a somewhat bitter thank you. She responded in kind. I made my connection and was on my way, having deposited my knife and multi-tool with my ever-patient wife and daughter, who understand my idiosyncrasies.
But while I was traveling, it gnawed at me. That attitude. That implicit accusation. What my TSA agent was saying was this: The majority of people who are stopped in airport security with weapons in their bags are liars, who have criminal intent. ‘That’s what everyone says.’
What she missed, what the endless gun-control, knife-control, administrative avalanche crowd misses, is that the overwhelming majority of people who show up with weapons are actually (and for a government worker this may seem shocking) telling the truth!
What she missed, what the rules miss, is the fact that millions of free American citizens carry knives and guns. They are house-wives and construction workers, military veterans and police-officers, farm-hands and attorneys, physicians and teachers, business-men, students, engineers and writers and everything in between. And they do it because they consider it their right under the Constitution, their right by natural law and their duty as concerned citizens willing to protect and help the weak and defenseless.
Sometimes they get in a hurry and forget. They leave a knife, or even a firearm, in a bag. They arrive at a TSA checkpoint and suddenly they are guilty until proven innocent. They are treated as if they clearly intended to take down that airplane, to assault those flight attendants. They were murderers fortunately stopped in the nick of time by vigilant government workers.
If the numbers of knives, scissors, tools and even firearms confiscated at check points is any indication, then by golly, we live in a nation overflowing with terrorists. But the truth is, we don’t. We live in a nation of good people, in a time during which air-travel is often the only way to conduct business or take trips to desired locales.
We live in a nation of laws, and of men and women who know the dangers of this world and choose to ensure their own safety. Sadly, when they get to that aircraft, they have to surrender their own freedom, their own means of protection. Fair enough. It’s lousy, but it’s the law. Thanks to the actions of barbaric individuals in the past, the free and lawful are treated as if they were the wicked and dangerous. (And heaven knows we can’t profile, because someone might get their feelings hurt!) So we’re stuck with a litany of rules and prohibitions, a labyrinth of check-points and xrays.)
I know that the men and women of TSA have a hard job. I get it. I’m sure it’s mind-numbing in its monotony, and that the masses who come through like sheep occasionally act like them. And I’ve met plenty of polite, gracious, helpful TSA staff to whom I say ‘thank you!’
All I’m asking is for the folks out there who screen us and search us and move us through the scanners to remember, now and then, that the people they search are overwhelmingly not the people we need to fear, nor the people who will crash airplanes into buildings.
Mostly, they’re just folks with a job to do, a vacation to take or a loved one to see. Often,they’re the people who carry weapons and would never, in a million years, use their weapons to hurt an innocent person. But they might be the ones who would be willing to save someone’s husband, wife, parent or child, from a robbery, assault or rape. And if they now and then forget what was in their bag, odds are, that’s exactly what happened.
After all, ‘that’s what everyone says,’ because practically everyone is telling the God’s honest truth.