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March 19, 2002


I am outraged.

Last night I watched as Glenda Hood, mayor of my hometown Orlando, made the rounds of the news shows defending Orlando's new airport x-ray machine. When I was a little girl growing up in the 50's, it was every prepubescent schoolboy's dream to have Superman's x-ray vision and be able to see underneath a girl's clothes. Not all the way to her bones, of course, just to her skin. Just to see what was underneath those pesky snaps and buttons.

Well now that day is here. Only it isn't prepubescent schoolboys with the x-ray vision; it's scanners at the airport. And it isn't with furtive, guilty glances, it's with the full knowledge and order of the federal government. Orlando Airport is the test case, and if we don't start screaming right now, these light x-ray machines will spread to every airport in the country. And in order to get on a plane, you will have to pass through the scanner, putting your unclothed body on computer display.

What exactly do these scanners do? They take off your clothes. Virtually. Instead of x-raying you right to the bone, they see just through your clothes. To your skin. Great.

I have to tell you, it isn't a pretty sight. Playboy Magazine it's not. The image appears in eerie black and yellow glow, enhancing the creepiness and detachment from human dignity. The pictures of the volunteer scannee Glenda brought with her looked to be a man in his 50's, with rolls of fat around his middle and plumber's butt--if only he had pants on. I know, that's a gross image to discuss, but I want you to get the picture of the kinds of conversations these images will spawn in the scanning booth.

Mayor Glenda smiled brightly for the cameras as she assured us that scanning will be anonymous. After all, the scanners will not be able to see the passenger and the picture at the same time, so it isn't exactly like having someone look at your nude body. Well so what? You think they can't count? You think they won't be able to figure out which babe belonged to the D cups? Or which guy is carrying the tiny package?

Smiling just as brightly, Mayor Glenda added that the images are immediately discarded if no weapons are detected, as though that should end our anxiety. Nothing will be saved. Yeah, right. If it can be photographed on computer, it can be captured on computer. And whether it's legal or not, these pictures will show up on the internet. Combine these x-ray images with the video cameras that scan airports, taking pictures that leave our clothes intact, and it will become the latest craze to play Match the X-Ray Image with the Video Person.

Of even greater concern, one must wonder what kind of people will apply for a job that requires/allows them to stare at pictures of naked people all day. I don't even want to think about it. But we could end up with more to worry about than airplane bombs when these folks go home at night.

We must not allow this invasion of our privacy to be approved! I am so angry that I'm boycotting the Orlando Airport, even though it is my second home. In fact, I am driving from New York to Orlando for spring break, rather than flying there, as a protest against this outrage. These machines are a violation of our Constitutional right against unwarranted search. The mere fact that a person wants to board a plane is not sufficient evidence that he is going to commit a crime, nor should his resistance to being searched be construed as such evidence. We have a right to privacy, and a right to travel without being virtually strip searched. Metal detectors, baggage checks, and yes, profiling, are far better measures against terrorism than this Orwellian tactic.

One of the starkest images that remains in my mind from the move Schindler's List is the sight of hundreds of Jews being forced to parade naked in front of their tormentors. Filmed in black and white, the moving images of the actors and actresses who agreed to portray this aspect of the Holocaust look remarkably like the x-ray images we saw last night as Glenda Hood strutted her stuff. The Nazi commandant smiles provocatively as he surveys this scene, not unlike Glenda Hood's bright smile as she assured us that this is a necessary measure in the government's effort to protect us from death in the skies.

I'm sorry Mrs. Hood, but as Winston Smith learns in 1984, there are some fates worse than death, and some prices too high for safety.

-- Jo Ann Skousen

email: jaskousen@mskousen.com

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