By now, just about everyone has heard this quote, or some variation of it, from Benjamin Franklin. "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." It's probably been quoted more since 9/11 than just about any other Franklin quote. And the good lord knows this man was nothing if not a quote machine. So to rise to the top the way this quote has is an impressive accomplishment.
Despite the vast chasm that yawns between my Catholic schoolgirl childhood and my current totter into old age, some parts of me will forever be affected by those early teachings. Modesty is probably the one that still affects me in ways I can hardly begin to explain. Yes, I was a child of the 60s and yes, I wore my skirts as mini as I thought I could without my mother throwing a sheet over me. And yet there is still that part of me that holds to a certain modesty, a feeling that, as my mother would say, some things belong only in the privacy of your own bedroom.
Nudity definitely makes that list. I am barely able to undress in front of my birds and dogs. I can't quite imagine what I'm going to do the first time I get to one of those new TSA scanners.
I guess I've been lucky. The one time I've traveled since they were put into use, I did not go through security at an airport where they were installed. But I'm going on another short trip in the not too distant future and know that at some point I will have to go through the new security. And I can't begin to express how freaked I am at the thought of standing there while someone photographs me through my clothes. I don't mind the idea that the picture will cause them to point and laugh hysterically as much as I mind the picture itself.
Although I may joke that enduring the more invasive pat down is the biggest thrill I get at my age, the truth is that my sense of personal space is such that I cannot imagine anyone groping me in that manner outside of the confines of an intimate relationship.
Yep, that Catholic schoolgirl is never very far away.
Which brings us back to good old Ben and his quote. At what point have we given up so much freedom to continue to live in a "free" society that we have, in essence, lost the freedom we sought to protect?
I don't know what the answer is to that question. I hear both sides of the argument and I see merit in both sides. If America's economy is to recover and gain any semblance of its former strength, then the ability to move freely around the country is essential. Our attempts to recover from this recession would be crippled by any greater restrictions on travel. America has always been a country of roamers. From the days we traveled in covered wagons through to today when we get on a plane as causally as our parents got on a trolley car, Americans have always been on the move.
But if getting on that plane means giving up every shred of dignity, privacy and personal space that we possess, then the question does need to be asked as to whether the terrorists haven't already won. If the next terrorist inserts something into a body cavity to get on a plane undetected, will we all then be expected to climb up into stirrups before we can board a flight? Where does the line get drawn?
At some point we have to wonder if al- Qaida isn't sitting in a cave somewhere in the hills of the Mideast just laughing at what they have created in America. Their women cannot leave the house without a male relative and must be covered from head to foot. But thanks to the terror they've created in America's soul, our women are photographed naked with perfect strangers inspecting the pictures.
It's like I said. I'm not sure what the answer is, but every time I hear about someone being groped or X-rayed at an airport security checkpoint, it feels like the terrorists are winning.
Elise Patkotak is an Alaska writer and author of "Parallel Logic," her memoir of 28 years in Barrow. Website, www.elisepatkotak.com.