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So this holiday season, I, like millions of people around the world, traveled to visit family. Since I live in America, I was subjected to the new X-Ray or GROPE routine. I refused to be put through the X-ray machine, and so I was sexually assaulted by a member of the TSA. She put her hands in my shirt, and in the waistband of my pants. She touched EVERY PART of my body. I felt so dirty. I felt violated. And I of course, said something to the TSA person groping me. I said to her,

“Do you really think this makes us safer?”

But everyone I saw going through the scan line was mute. Everyone felt powerless to do anything about this. So I decided that if I was feeling this way, a bunch of other people must be feeling this way too, and I decided to write about it.

The reason I decided to go for grope-a-palooza instead of CANCER-SCANNER was because Cindy Sheehan wrote this article. In it, she writes,

“The first thing that bugs me is how complacent my fellow travelers are about the civil rights abuses we endure to be able to take the airplane seats we pay hundreds of dollars for. The second we click ‘purchase’ on the airline’s website, we are treated as though we are guilty just for wanting to go from point A to B by plane. This goes against our constitutional right of being presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Every time a TSA operative asks me if he or she can “take a look in my bag,” I say: “Sure, if you can show me a warrant.”

Previously to going through security, I read this post by Reuben Swartz (@mimiran on Twitter) about Value, Pricing, and the TSA. He writes,

“…every time the TSA ups the ante of ridiculous reactions to the last terrorist threat (or lobbying dollars from the well-connected), the perceived differential value of *all* airline travel decreases. Do I want a nice dose of radiation and a somewhat nude picture of myself sent to a server somewhere (TSA was caught lying about the ability of machines to store images. Of course they can store images!)? Or perhaps I’d like to be sexually assaulted (there’s really no other word for it) by a frustrated TSA official? Or perhaps I’d rather just do a video conference. Or drive, if the distance is short enough. Or just change my plans.

As someone who flies a fair bit (and whose loved ones fly, too), I have a pretty big interest in air travel being as safe as reasonably possible. However, I accept that 100% security is impossible. (Especially once I pull out of the airport and onto the freeways.) We’re not even making a “trade off” of time, dignity, and constitutional rights against safety. There’s no value on the other end.

For all the billions spent, how many terrorists has the TSA caught? 0. Passengers have caught a few. Law enforcement has caught some. Again, TSA: 0.”

Then I read this timely article by Chris Hedges, (copyright Truthdig) and it really hit home for my experience. Hedges writes:

“We have been gradually disempowered by a corporate state that, as Huxley foresaw, seduced and manipulated us through sensual gratification, cheap mass-produced goods, boundless credit, political theater and amusement. While we were entertained, the regulations that once kept predatory corporate power in check were dismantled, the laws that once protected us were rewritten and we were impoverished. Now that credit is drying up, good jobs for the working class are gone forever and mass-produced goods are unaffordable, we find ourselves transported from “Brave New World” to “1984.” The state, crippled by massive deficits, endless war and corporate malfeasance, is sliding toward bankruptcy. It is time for Big Brother to take over from Huxley’s feelies, the orgy-porgy and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. We are moving from a society where we are skillfully manipulated by lies and illusions to one where we are overtly controlled.

Orwell warned of a world where books were banned. Huxley warned of a world where no one wanted to read books. Orwell warned of a state of permanent war and fear. Huxley warned of a culture diverted by mindless pleasure. Orwell warned of a state where every conversation and thought was monitored and dissent was brutally punished. Huxley warned of a state where a population, preoccupied by trivia and gossip, no longer cared about truth or information. Orwell saw us frightened into submission. Huxley saw us seduced into submission. But Huxley, we are discovering, was merely the prelude to Orwell. Huxley understood the process by which we would be complicit in our own enslavement. Orwell understood the enslavement. Now that the corporate coup is over, we stand naked and defenseless. We are beginning to understand, as Karl Marx knew, that unfettered and unregulated capitalism is a brutal and revolutionary force that exploits human beings and the natural world until exhaustion or collapse.”

The corporate state does not find its expression in a demagogue or charismatic leader. It is defined by the anonymity and facelessness of the corporation. Corporations, who hire attractive spokespeople like Barack Obama, control the uses of science, technology, education and mass communication. They control the messages in movies and television. And, as in “Brave New World,” they use these tools of communication to bolster tyranny. Our systems of mass communication, as Wolin writes, “block out, eliminate whatever might introduce qualification, ambiguity, or dialogue, anything that might weaken or complicate the holistic force of their creation, to its total impression.”

“The result is a monochromatic system of information. Celebrity courtiers, masquerading as journalists, experts and specialists, identify our problems and patiently explain the parameters. All those who argue outside the imposed parameters are dismissed as irrelevant cranks, extremists or members of a radical left. Prescient social critics, from Ralph Nader to Noam Chomsky, are banished. Acceptable opinions have a range of A to B. The culture, under the tutelage of these corporate courtiers, becomes, as Huxley noted, a world of cheerful conformity, as well as an endless and finally fatal optimism. We busy ourselves buying products that promise to change our lives, make us more beautiful, confident or successful as we are steadily stripped of rights, money and influence. All messages we receive through these systems of communication, whether on the nightly news or talk shows like “Oprah,” promise a brighter, happier tomorrow. And this, as Wolin points out, is “the same ideology that invites corporate executives to exaggerate profits and conceal losses, but always with a sunny face.” We have been entranced, as Wolin writes, by “continuous technological advances” that “encourage elaborate fantasies of individual prowess, eternal youthfulness, beauty through surgery, actions measured in nanoseconds: a dream-laden culture of ever-expanding control and possibility, whose denizens are prone to fantasies because the vast majority have imagination but little scientific knowledge.”

“Our manufacturing base has been dismantled. Speculators and swindlers have looted the U.S. Treasury and stolen billions from small shareholders who had set aside money for retirement or college. Civil liberties, including habeas corpus and protection from warrantless wiretapping, have been taken away. Basic services, including public education and health care, have been handed over to the corporations to exploit for profit. The few who raise voices of dissent, who refuse to engage in the corporate happy talk, are derided by the corporate establishment as freaks.”

“The noose is tightening. The era of amusement is being replaced by the era of repression. Tens of millions of citizens have had their e-mails and phone records turned over to the government. We are the most monitored and spied-on citizenry in human history. Many of us have our daily routine caught on dozens of security cameras. Our proclivities and habits are recorded on the Internet. Our profiles are electronically generated. Our bodies are patted down at airports and filmed by scanners. And public service announcements, car inspection stickers, and public transportation posters constantly urge us to report suspicious activity. The enemy is everywhere.

Those who do not comply with the dictates of the war on terror, a war which, as Orwell noted, is endless, are brutally silenced. The draconian security measures used to cripple protests at the G-20 gatherings in Pittsburgh and Toronto were wildly disproportionate for the level of street activity. But they sent a clear message—DO NOT TRY THIS. The FBI’s targeting of antiwar and Palestinian activists, which in late September saw agents raid homes in Minneapolis and Chicago, is a harbinger of what is to come for all who dare defy the state’s official Newspeak. The agents—our Thought Police—seized phones, computers, documents and other personal belongings. Subpoenas to appear before a grand jury have since been served on 26 people. The subpoenas cite federal law prohibiting “providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations.” Terror, even for those who have nothing to do with terror, becomes the blunt instrument used by Big Brother to protect us from ourselves.”

So why are we being scanned now? When the last terrorist attack was by a white guy driving a plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas? I’ll tell you why. L-3 Communications and RapiScan, manufacturers of the invasive and horrible X-ray scanner products, paid plenty to put these new “security measures” in place. Yep. According to USAToday and the Huffington Post, they doubled their campaign contributions over 5 years. L-3 alone paid $4.3 million in campaign contributions to get a $39.7 million payment from the government for these machines.

So, civil liberties. Being overrun. Corporations. Abusing our rights. How can we combat this?

Well, we can ALL choose to Opt Out Of Flying. Take your car. Take the train. Opt out of this security theater.

But what ELSE can we do? We can give to Corporate Accountability International and Public Citizen-Congress Watch.

And we can give to Campaign Finance Reform. As it happens, fundraising is actually the cause of, and solution to, corporate abuse at the highest levels of our government. Imagine if every congressional, senatorial and presidential candidate did not have to fundraise continuously for 2-4 years before being elected. Imagine if everyone got the exact same amount of face time, articles, billboards, leaflets, and yard signs, all given by the government. Imagine if our politicians didn’t sell us out to the highest donor to their campaigns. Imagine this.

Any other ideas on what we can do? I’d love to hear your solutions!

If I’ve missed a nonprofit in this lineup, please let me know!