This Memorial Day weekend has been quite a reflection of what it truly means to be a free American. Kahili and I have had quite a weekend together. We learned that even if we can’t run, jump, or shoot guns at enemy fighters, we can still contribute to this country’s rights and freedoms. One thing I want to point to happened yesterday. Change.org, a popular online petition site, recently circulated a petition by the Center for Understanding, dealing with the disabled at TSA lines. As a blind person, I sometimes feel humiliated when another fellow disabled person is humiliated. So when I saw the petition, I stopped and thought back to a time when I was the subject of invisibility, at a security checkpoint at the airport post-9/11. It was the year 2005. I had just graduated high school. My mom and I were going through the line, but someone talked as if I wasn’t there, telling my mother and not I that the cane had to be brought through the checkpoint scanner. This is humiliation at its sarcastic finest, should I say. Blind people deserve to be more visible, even despite the visible disability. We must be treated like equal citizens, and nobody should ever have ruined my confidence in travel, something a lot of us blind folks are not that strong at. Blind women in particular, through my experience, stand a much larger chance of being scared, fearful, and having to relearn the skill of travel again and again and again. After having gone so far at CCB, the school in Littleton, I said I had enough. But back to security checkpoints. The fear of travel sometimes makes it impossible to navigate security checkpoints, and when you are as scared as I am of travel, then you don’t even want to face humiliation at the security checkpoint.
That’s not the only problem disabled people face. Wheelchair bound folks have to wait in places where walking people are crammed around them. Chlosterophobic folks have to wait in small spaces.
Just what are the armed forces truly fighting for? If it’s freedom, then why are our country’s disabled people being humiliated by TSA screeners who don’t know how to deal with them?
The air force, national guard, and army are seemingly more concerned with failed states like Somalia, ISIS issues like that in Syria and all the political brickabrack going on in Iran, and the last thing the Guard really does is look at what’s really ongoing in the security checkpoints. Because of an underwear bomber in Nigeria, men have to let their balls and junk show at checkpoints. Then, it was okay, golf clubs are okay, but not self defense sprays. How many women are objecting to this stuff? It is abhorrent that women cannot have their mace in a suitcase, so much so that I think it might become objectionable to have such a rule. But then, it became little noticeable that the disabled were being treated poorly in TSA lines.
With the recent hyperactivity in the news about the unacceptable wait times in TSA checkpoints, I think there is only one solution, maybe a few.
- TSA should be abolished altogether in favor of the National Guard or more well trained personel at airports. Period. These screening protocols should include no more body scans unless the person is truly suspicious.
- 2. If you can’t find enough guardsmen and women to man the screening process, why not use police officers in the locale? There are plenty of ideas you could try, but not less qualified TSA personel who don’t know anything about disability.
- 3. Have psychologists who are FBI experienced on hand to deal with the suspicious ones. If a guy is walking in to an airport with a noticeable bulge or a really snickerish look in his butt or on his face respectively, ten do something. Obviously, the guy might be talking trash like Allah will meet him in Hell or something. I don’t know exactly, but make for darn sure if the guy is truly acting suspicious and rocking and taking weird poses in the airport, then go ahead and take him aside so he doesn’t hurt anyone, and ask questions. Make him forget about flying around and hurting other people.
- 4. If the guy is really a threat, well, do what you’re trained to do. If the guy has a disability and does not show a threat, treat him as innocent in this instance until proven guilty. Seems our justice system can take a lesson from that as well.
- AS per the personel in charge of this, this is what I’d write in a job want ad for these people:
- XYZn International Airport is seeking dedicated and trustworthy personel to man the security checkpoints here. The following are required of these personel:
- 1. 4 or more years police officer experience, must have graduated from a local police academy.
- 2. Is a member of the national guard or FBI.
- 3. Has had two or more years experience working with people with disabilities or is willing to learn how.
- 4. Does not come up dirty in a criminal background check.
- 5. Passes all necessary security clearances. Please call the number below and fill out our application and we’ll think about this soon as we get your application. …
- Yadda yadda yadda. You get the picture. I would never just want any Tom or Dick or Harry to join the TSA and screen women like sex objects.
- This Memorial Day weekend truly should make you all think, if the armed forces are protecting our country, then why are we humiliating disabled people to “protect” others? I have many dear friends who could find themselves in this position. It is paramount that these friends could face more than this. If the Armed Forces who died for us want to be remembered for fighting for our freedom, let’s promise them something like this: we must allow disabled people the right to be people, especially at airports and anywhere else we travel, work, live, sleep, and play. We must promise these folks, the fallen ones, that a guy who’s been disabled in battle can get a job and provide for his wife and kids. We must promise the lady who has been raped in military service that she can be provided with rape counseling so she can move on and forget the rape altogether, that is if she can. We must promise that all of the disabled, veterans included, can live their lives forward and as well as they can. They can move on forward, straight ahead with the raising of the kids, the dreams he or she might have, etc. If I were a disabled vet, one thing I’d promise my fallen buddies in battle is that I would just go with it, live life with all the things I wanted to before my discharge date. I have a best friend, to whom I’d like to dedicate this post, who has had disability throw her off a lot. Jataya, my best bud in high school, has been trying and struggling to stay active for God knows how long. We’ve had our differences, for heaven’s sake, she lived with me twice, but Jataya’s life has been anything but nothing and just shattered dreams. She has pushed hard to do things, worked incredibly hard, and now uses a service dog for mobility needs. She loves her life, and she’s cool. She tried the Marines, but to no avail. They medically discharged her for reasons unknown to a lot of people, and which I cannot disclose here. But I’ve seen her go through two shoulder and knee replacements and surgeries. Ugh. Surgery was no fun. Had she stayed in the military, this lady would have seen all the combat stuff, including death, invasion, etc. She could have also faced sexual harassment from fellow male platoonmates. This happens a lot, and Sen. Kirsten Gillebrandt has worked to stop this horrific crime against women in the military. Jataya might have even lost her own life, and joined the fallen in the Arlington National Cemetery, where Obama took a traditional step yesterday. However, I think disability was a blessing and saved her from going any further, and at least she was able to maintain contact with VA and other staffers who were able to help get her stuff in order. I’ve gone for a drink or two with her a time or two, and Gosh, I do miss her and wonder where on Earth she disappeared to. Hope she’s still in Canyon City, probably fooling around with something and planning on taking over the world. I want to smile and laugh, but it still drains my energy thinking of what could have happened.
- This year, as we remember the fallen and the injured who made the ultimate sacrifice, think of the women like Jataya who could have very well done that, but have to face injury, but she faces it like a trooper. Think about the humiliation that folks like Jataya, myself, and many others have to face at the airports. What are we truly fighting for? Should we truly give up our rights as disabled folks, warehouse ourselves in a label called “can’t” so that able bodied people can have their safety? No. If we are to salute our armed forces, they should be fighting for all of us, including disabled buddies in battle, disabled folks with birth defects, etc. All of us can become disabled in illness or disease. Try binding up a leg and using a chair. Try blindfolding yourselves with different levels of blindness, and do things on your own at an airport. I personally despise airports, big nasty places mostly, where you have to navigate to your plane gate through all this convoluted garbage called “security”, but now you have to face humiliation because you have a wheelchair or cane. Most of the people who face mistreatment are harmless, so calm down, and somebody do something about the TSA. This is one promise to our fallen in battle, both civilian and Veteran, I will not break.