Anyone who has ever traveled with small children has no doubt heard the question “are we there yet” multiple times before arriving at the destination. Young kids have not yet developed a clear understanding of time passage and they don’t recognize milestones that would enable them to judge for themselves how far they have yet to travel. They might not even have a clear picture of where it is they are going. Although it is a bit annoying to an adult to hear the same question over and over, it is a valid concern from the child’s perspective.
I recently had occasion to travel by air on a business trip after not doing so for a year or so. As I made my way through the line to the TSA security checkpoint, I made the preparations that were recommended over the airport loudspeaker system. I removed my laptop computer from its case, placed my keys in my carry-on luggage, and removed my jacket. When I got to the TSA agent, I was informed, in a not so polite manner that I should remove my shoes and belt in order to make it through the metal detector. Once on the other side of the checkpoint, I gathered my belongings and proceeded to a nearby counter to put my belt and shoes back on, retrieve my keys and secure my carry-on bags, feeling a bit like I had been treated in a rude manner by someone who suspected me of wrong doing. It was at that point that I glanced up and noticed two 10 x 12 glossy photos, one of President GW Bush, and another of newly appointed Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff glaring down at me with a smirk on their faces.
On the airplane, I couldn’t help thinking of this seemingly harmless situation. Though I had nothing to hide and was allowed to continue on my way unhindered, something nagged at me. I think it was the feeling I got as I looked at those photos, the feeling that big brother was watching me and I was suspect. I then recalled talking to an older woman the last time I had flown who had her crochet hook confiscated at an airport checkpoint and was visibly shaken and in tears not only at the loss of the crochet hook, but at the thought that anyone would suspect her of trying to bring a weapon onto an airplane.
I also started thinking of my two young sons who, along with my wife, had given me a ride to the airport that morning. I began to better understand the feeling of wanting to know where it was I was going and how I would know when I had arrived. Then I began to think of the same question from a national perspective.
Where are we going as a nation? How is it that we find ourselves in a situation where everyone is suspect and big brother is watching our every move? Is it because Arab Terrorists attacked us and the government is trying to protect us? Or is it that government, under the guise of protecting us, is attacking our freedoms? There is no doubt that a very shady enemy has been defined, one that is not easily identified and one that could strike anywhere, at any moment. Is this not the perfect environment for an oppressive government to trample on the rights of citizens in the name of security?
During my flight, I looked at my watch and wondered when I would arrive at my destination and was able to answer that question based on my itinerary and the current time. The question of where we are headed as a nation and how we will know when we have arrived can be answered in a similar manner. Judging by the evidence, we are heading toward a totalitarian police state, and judging by the milestones, we are almost there.