When I flew home from Washington, DC after a business trip last week, the TSA agent asked to test my laptop. I politely asked what they were testing for. It was just routine she told me. And she’s right, it has become routine, a much too routine standard operating procedure designed to make us believe that the usurping of our privacy and human rights is normal and necessary if we are to be secure and free.
The obvious irony is that we are not secure and free if government agents have a right to violate our privacy and deny our rights without cause. I considered protesting but I figured that the best outcome of that would be missing my flight, the worst case being detained incommunicado in an undisclosed location. The likelihood of a plausible explanation for this sudden interest in my laptop was undoubtedly nil. In otherwords, whatcha gonna do and TSA knows that.
My youngest son barely has a memory of when you could get on a plane without having to take off your shoes first. He was in 4th grade on Sept. 11, 2001 and within days his school was decked out in American flags and “I Support President Bush” signs appeared everywhere. For him this is normal, the way things are supposed to be. And that is no accident.
What is particularly disturbing about the normalizing of this notion that it is unpatriotic to question measures that supposedly defend us from acts of terror is the use of entertainment to hawk the message. In addition to the Disney-owned ABC’s Homeland Security reality show, there is now a Homeland Security television channel on the internet that bills itself as,
(T)he world’s first online, on-demand television network dedicated to homeland security and global development. HSTV is a 24/7 interactive television channel dedicated to producing broadcast-quality video programs on all aspects of homeland security and the role of global development in fighting terrorism.
HSTV is also dedicated to facilitating rapid awareness of new technologies and services, and assisting in the transfer of those technology solutions to the government and critical infrastructure marketplace.
And the U.S. military has spared no expense giving kids every opportunity to play sanitized military video games that helpfully provide links to military recruiting sites. In addition to video games such as “America’s Army“, the Army recently opening the $12 million U.S. Army Experience Center at the Franklin Mills shopping center outside of Philadelphia where kids can play sanitized military video games.”
The Philadelphia center lures recruits with a separate room for prospective soldiers to “fire” from a real Humvee on enemy encampments projected on a 15-foot-high (4.5-meter-high) battleground scenario that also has deafening sound effects.
In another room, those inclined to attack from above can join helicopter raids in which enemy soldiers emerge from hide-outs to be felled by automatic gunfire rattling from a simulator modeled on an Apache or Blackhawk helicopter.
Most insidious however are the toys marketed to preschool and elementary school age children that exploit the war on terror mantra. Playmobil has several toys that fit that bill, including Playmobil Security Checkpoint (for ages 4-7) and Playmobil Police Checkpoint (for ages 10 and up).
The only thing that gives one hope are the product reviews on Amazon where you can buy these propaganda for profit gems. Here is one of the reviews of the Security Checkpoint toy:
Finally a toy that gets our kids used to living in a police state. Benjamin Franklin said that those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. But then again, he lived in France for awhile, so what did he know about anything.
Before this toy came out I was afraid my son would not know how to cope with the new reality of American life; how to prepare him to the future, I was wondering. Boy am I relieved; so many lessons learned! Now he knows that:
1) Some people can make a decent living treating others like cattle, and the best part: the cattle is paying their salaries.
2) You only have the rights that the government gives you; you can move around the country only if you comply with government regulations, no matter how frivolous they might be. No liquid you say? except if in a ziplock bag? Check. Lighter ok because the cigarette lobby fought the no-lighter rule? Swell. All passengers searched but cargo mostly un-scrutinized? No problem.
3) You should always bow to people in uniforms, even though they might be in this job because they could not qualify for police work (because of the rap sheet or the drug abuse).
Unfortunately, this toy comes short in a few areas:
1) It does not show that if you’re rich, you don’t have to wait in line for hours. If you can travel first class, you get your own fast-track screening. Too bad the terr’ists have plenty of Saudi and Pakistani cash and can easily travel first class should they want to. They should have included another screening set in the box.
2) It does not come with the 300 tired-looking playmobils you would need to show the passengers waiting in line behind the screening area.
However, it does some things very well: for instance, the screening apparatus is not actually functional. This represents faithfully the actual TSA system, which, every time it is tested or audited, fails to catch anything (weapons, even bombs).
So, thank you Playmobil. I hope they will expand their product offering and give us more toys that can help our children prepare for the new reality of a much safer America; specifically, I am eagerly waiting for the Staline-style Guantanamo American gulag set, the North-Korean-style CIA water-boarding set, the KGB-style NSA phone-tapping set. Some people will whine about the loss of their civil liberties, but my son knows that the North-Korean are some of the safest people in the world. They had virtually no fear of terrorists.
Quite honestly after falling out of my chair laughing at a whole slew of reviews in that vein, I began to think that never mind that I was reading this on Amazon, perhaps these were spoofs. However queries to both Playmobil and Amazon confirmed that both products, sadly, are for real.
As difficult as it sometimes seemed to raise sons during the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Ranger years, clearly teaching children the difference between right and wrong has become far more challenging as the toys and games pitched at them become blatant police state propaganda.