Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Scanning (is) the issue

More talk about activating full body security scanning at O'Hare. Despite all the assurances that the persons monitoring the scans will not be in proximity to the victims, I mean, passengers; that data will not be kept; that it's all really important for public safety, I am not okay with this.
Am I being overly prudish? Hung up? Neurotic?
Isn't thwarting a potentially catastrophic act of terror worth a virtual strip search every time I travel?
What is it that really bothers me, deep down, about this "public safety measure"?
Is it that it is disproportionate, sifting through millions of travelers each week (or day, if you combine US airports that plan to install the equipment) to find one possible evil-doer (who would, of course, have chosen an alternate form of terror by that time)?
No, it's not that.
I'm beginning to realize that it's a theology of the body thing.
I object to full body scanning because I believe that, with the level of detail it offers (even if in silhouette), it violates what Pope John Paul called the spousal meaning of the body. The body's design itself makes it clear that we are meant for an "other", and we generally choose that "other" with care. We are vulnerable in revealing ourselves. Even at the doctor's office, we don't go full frontal unless that is precisely where our health is threatened. (That's why they give you that crazy paper outfit.) Self-revelation in the body is a lovely (in the full sense of the word), intimate gift. Because the body is meant for communion. Always.
It is not true that our body is just a sort of envelope for a sexlessly generic soul, or that it is a strange animal-like appendage to the "important," spiritual part, but that really doesn't matter in itself (although plenty of people in our culture seem to think this). Especially in this Christmas season, on this 12th day of Christmas, we ought to be alert to the tremendous significance of being "bodied persons": God became incarnate so he could relate to us in this very human way! (And, of course, Jesus is the true Spouse who seeks communion with us.)
So there's something really not right, in my book, with a "revelation" that takes place anonymously, apart from personal communion, in which I am being revealed to someone I cannot see or know; whose reaction I cannot gauge; whose trustworthiness with the sacredness of my body's image I am asked to take on the good faith of the United States' Transportation Security Administration.
What is your take on this issue? Would full-body scanning make you think twice about buying a plane ticket through O'Hare?


Carol said...

My opinion is that any airline that employs this devious machine will lose tons of business, and will fold like many other airlines. I honestly don't believe the incident even happened--I think this was a fabricated crisis in order to install these homeland security-friendly machines that we (in the alleged land of the free) had already said "no" to.

I will never patronize any airline that scans bodies. Your points are very good ones, too -I hadn't seen them elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Sr. Anne, prior to reading your blog today and after viewing the scanning process demonstrated on tv, I thought how delightful a car trip to Chicago would be.

harv681 said...

"Would full-body scanning make you think twice about buying a plane ticket through O'Hare?"
It already has! Amtrak anyone?

Bego said...

I had a creepy feeling about it but your tie-in with theology of the body is brilliant. I'd like to say that I would avoid the scan on principle, but I don't know, really, if I would follow through based on urgency of travel. I think I would store that in the recesses of my mind and console myself with the notion of anonymity, lying to myself as so many of us do as we continue to give away pieces of ourselves in misguided or downright scandalous abuses of our privacy--with us as accomplices in our own demise. I just depressed myself. Anyway, the issue that you raise here is merely a symptom in a greater problem in our culture of death. You have left me both sad that we have and continue to allow this, and hopeful, that we are beginning to see the light and possibly challenge some of these policies.

thanks for a thought-provoking analysis.

Sr Anne said...

I agree that denial is a necessary coping mechanism with which to deal with this situation (if we have to). But, as harv681 commented, there's always Amtrak!!! (For now, anyway, until the terrorists discover the beauty of riding the rails.)