Anthony Grant

No shoes? We all lose.

I love going through airport security lines in places like Israel and Italy, because people don’t shout at you, the uniforms are nice and you get to make your fashion statement uninterrupted from check-in to landing.

You get to keep your shoes on.

Why, in America, do we still have to take them off? The easiest answer to that is though we’re a great country, maybe the greatest, we’re also a stupid one.

Because one Muslim convert, Richard Reid, tried to weaponize his footwear aboard a flight from Paris to Miami over a decade ago, by American security logic now everyone in America is potentially  up to the same malodorous monkey business: so clam up and take ’em off, or no  takeoff. Period.

Question mark: why should anyone trust the judgment of an agency with a proven track record of employing so many known losers? News recently broke that the Dept. of Homeland Security, of which the Transportation Security Administration is an agency, has had on its payroll 2,527 employees convicted of crimes since 2004.

If I had to take a wild guess, I’d say that number probably dwarfs the total number of people working in security at Ben-Gurion International Airport. 2,527 federal employees with criminal records is shocking.

I appreciate the security challenges. The shoe situation can’t be resolved by singling out Muslims, for example. But blind obedience to flawed regulations is not the answer either. What that does is play into security theater, which is equally if not more dangerous than no security at all. But the precedent for buying into charade is  set at a higher level than airport security. Here’s a what a former reporter for NPR by the name of Andrea Seabrook had to say about 14 years of covering Congress:

“I realized that there is a part of covering Congress, if you’re doing daily coverage, that is actually sort of colluding with the politicians themselves because so much of what I was doing was actually recording and playing what they say or repeating what they say,” Seabrook told POLITICO. “And I feel like the real story of Congress right now is very much removed from any of that, from the sort of theater of the policy debate in Congress, and it has become such a complete theater that none of it is real. … I feel like I am, as a reporter in the Capitol, lied to every day, all day. There is so little genuine discussion going on with the reporters. … To me, as a reporter, everything is spin.”

American politicians are perhaps the world champions of spin (how else can you explain the election of President Obama?) and it’s not exactly a sin to spin. But when it comes to matters of security, where it has indeed become such a a complete theater that none of it is real, I feel like more Americans feel that as citizens they are being lied to every day, all day.

None of the new airport security measures are constitutionally-mandated and few are effective. Some, such as the heinous and frightening new full body image scanners, are downright dangerous, as any doctor with a degree will attest. A quick fix (Americans like quick) but a phony one, too.

But no one asked questions about the shoes, not really. A kind of cowed compliance ensued, of which Adolph Hitler would be proud. So now, when sad and shoeless road warriors are compulsorily irradiated before  catching their flights to Tulsa or Tel Aviv, it’s just the way it is. Don’t ask, don’t yell. Shut up and obey.

Israeli shoe designer Oded Arama’s colorful creations will brighten up any catwalk or airport security checkpoint.

The problem here is not just early onset of cancer. Not just the indignity of public exposure of socks on a massive scale. Even more than the glaring failure of effective security solutions, what is going on is an erosion of the motivation to travel in the first place.

More Americans are choosing the train or car over the airplane. Understandably! Trouble is, you can’t drive your pickup truck to Petra. “The great affair is to move,” Robert Louis Stevenson said. Indeed. Americans of all backgrounds need to travel to experience the world as it is, not how it’s filtered through their television screens. What the shoe police are doing is turning the country inwards, and that makes the world a little darker, and a little uglier. Certainly not safer.