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Mom and the TSA

January 8, 2011

“Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.” -Leviticus 19:32

That’s my mother in the photograph. She’ll be 92 years old in a couple months. She’s blind, needs a walker or wheelchair to go places, and has various age-related issues (don’t we all), but last week she took a flight from Michigan to Florida nevertheless.

Guess who got a pat-down from the TSA.

“Why’d they give you a pat-down, Mom?” I asked, over the phone.

“Apparently I look suspicious,” she answered.

Six years ago she lost her second eye to macular degeneration, leaving her with only a sliver of peripheral vision. It was a devastating loss because she loved reading and crossword puzzles, but one positive was that discarding her bifocals exposed her blue eyes again. Sitting here in Reno, I’m trying to imagine how anybody could look at my sweet, frail, little 92-year-old mother sitting in a wheelchair with her snow-white hair and big blue eyes staring straight ahead and think there was any possibility she might be a Muslim hijacker.

It boggles the mind.

My sister, Mary, accompanied my parents on the flight – that’s her in the red sweater with her arm across Mom’s legs, and that’s Dad holding Mom’s hand. (If you click on the photo you can see the family portrait in its entirety. I’m back left, up high, looming over the family like a gargoyle. They tried to keep me out of sight but I stood on a chair. Ha.)

“Why did they give Mom a pat-down?” I asked my sister.

“Well, she couldn’t really walk through the scanner, and with her artificial knee the scanner would probably sound the alarm anyway. So when you don’t go through the scanner they give you a pat-down.”

“But Mary, she’s 92. Did I miss the memo about a fatwa issued by nonagenarian Swedish women? Are we under attack by jihadi great grandmothers and nobody told me?”

“It was no big deal. A polite TSA lady just ran her hands down Mom’s body and rubbed her sides a little bit.”

So when strangers at the airport don’t get to third base with your mother that’s considered a good day in America now. My how our standards have slipped! And oh my goodness what fools we are making of ourselves! Remember, the TSA has never caught a terrorist and never come close to catching a terrorist. Last May, they couldn’t even stop a terrorist they were told about ahead of time – Faisal Shahzad tried to bomb Times Square on Saturday, was identified by law enforcement on Sunday, and was allowed by the TSA to board a flight to Dubai on Monday... even though by then he was on their “no-fly list.”

Hey, the TSA has priorities. They were too busy hassling great grandmothers and other innocent Americans to worry about a 31-year-old Muslim Pakistani on the no-fly list who was flying to Dubai without luggage and sweating nervously in the inspection line… and for whom there was a special terrorist alert.

“Go ahead, you can board, Mr. Shahzad. Have a nice flight. YOU! OLD LADY WITH A CANE! FREEZE AND SPREAD ‘EM!”

I don’t blame my sister for her lack of protest, and I’m glad my father didn’t go all World War II on those TSA buttheads. I’d hate to think of Dad under arrest and cooling his heels in the airport pokey… because only God knows if he can still bring his wrists close enough behind his back for handcuffs, and we all know how often 92-year-old men need to pee.

The TSA has us over a barrel. If we want to travel we have to take their crap, and take it with a smile because stories abound of TSA revenge on people who gave them grief. We can be refused the right to board, put on the no-fly list, hassled and humiliated the next time we fly, framed by having contraband placed in our luggage, you name it. (Every one of those things has happened.) The TSA is a gang of thugs with nearly unlimited government power.

Pilot Chris Liu posted a video of TSA stupidity on YouTube and had six officers show up at his home, had his firearm confiscated and his status as a Federal Flight Deck Officer suspended, and is being “investigated,” whatever that means. To hell with terrorists, let’s git that guy who embarrassed us!

“Mom, will you promise me something?”

“Sure, Jimmy.”

“Mom, seriously, I’m too old to be called Jimmy.”

“I can’t help it. You’re the youngest so you’ll always be my baby.”

“Whatever. Listen, I think I’m gonna write a column about this and I don’t wanna look bad later. Promise me the next time you fly you won’t jump out of your wheelchair, subdue the passengers with a pair of nail clippers, break into the cockpit through the steel-reinforced door with your bare hands, and fly the plane into a building.”

“I promise.”

Tyranny is something that creeps up slowly, using small steps to minimize alarm. First they subject you to inspection, then they make you wear an ID badge, then they start confiscating your property, then they ask your fellow citizens to spy on you. Next thing you know they’re putting you on a train to Birkenau. Baby steps, that’s the way tyranny arrives.

The TSA is not there to stop terrorists. They are ludicrously unprepared for and uninterested in stopping terrorists. Their goal is to acclimate Americans to indignity and humiliation in the one place where we dare not complain for fear of missing our Disney World vacations and cruise ship reservations and business meetings… or even losing our right to travel altogether.

They’ve got us right where they want us, standing and watching passively while grandma gets the pat-down.

“Gee, Mom, did the TSA woman wear gloves at least?”

“I don’t know. I’m blind, remember?”



From Reno, Nevada, USA

January 19, 2011 - Hi Jim... Just finished reading your TSA column to Mom and Dad... they both enjoyed it very much! As did I. I forgot to mention that Dad's ID tag on his carry-on duffel bag, said, "Don't touch my Junk!" I thought that was very age appropriate for him! Mom and Dad are doing very well here in the warm Florida weather so all is well! - Mary D., Florida

January 10, 2010 - Jim, your mom always terrorized us with her awesome breakfasts, so much food so little time to eat. So she is in the terrorists catagory. She should have carried some food with her and just fed the TSA. - Pat T., Michigan
J.P. replies: You're thinking of my dad's apple pancakes with hot apple syrup, although I'm sure Mom participated. Regular breakfasts – eggs, cereal – were Mom's bailiwick. Special breakfasts – french toast, waffles, apple pancakes – were Dad's. Sigh. It's been a long time since I had apple pancakes & hot apple syrup.

January 9, 2011 - Love the family photo. Seems like everyone is smiling and happy. Says a bunch about your parents. - Leila, Delaware

January 9, 2011 - I think this is my favorite article you've written! Probably because GG is the star:) The restaurant's name is Timbers. - Casey, Michigan

January 9, 2011 - Apparantly you haven't been reading the papers lately . . . there are these guys called "terrorists" that try to blow up airplanes and kill people. That is why the TSA exist. The reason 90-year olds get patted down is not because of the TSA - it's because of organizations like the ACLU that scream if we "profile". Wake up America - time to get a little tougher. Our civil liberties are not threatened by profiling or by body scanners. By the way . . . you're right - that 90-year old is my aunt and she is probably not a terrorist. - Dave G., Michigan

January 9, 2011 - It's almost unbelievable how stupid, untrained, and useless the TSA personnel are. Like you point out, they've never caught a terrorist or stopped a terrorist from boarding a plane, so why are we putting up with their crap? - S.T., Oklahoma

January 9, 2011 - Well said Jim. Can't believe they patted down your mom! Absolute BS. I don't know who to blame, the (Muslims) who have caused this chaos in our society, or the left wing liberals who are so afraid of offending a Muslim (all the terrorists are Muslim), and afraid of 'profiling'. What is it going to take before the liberals realize that there is no other way, but to profile?! Apparently liberals have no common sense, or guts. My two sons, aged 6 & 8, just went to Florida, to Disney, with their mom, and the TSA patted down my little boys. - Todd L., Michigan

January 8, 2010 - Where was that photo taken? Lovely family. Your Dad looks like my Grandfather did (many years ago when he was still with us). Your Mom is beautiful. - Dianna, Michigan
J.P. replies: The picture was taken at a restaurant in Rockford, Michigan. I can't remember the name of the place, but we commandeered half of it for the party. Not everybody could make it – some of the spouses and great grandchildren from other states weren't there. Only one grandchild was missing. I can remember celebrating my parents' 50th anniversary and thinking that was really something... now they're about to have their 70th. Can you imagine?

January 8, 2011 - you have become a good writer right or wrong I read the whole thing - Joy M., Michigan



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