I drove to Sacramento and flew to Seattle where I was met for the drive to Yakima. My trip was pretty uneventful, as far as traveling issues, until I entered security at SeaTac for the return flight.
I had the dubious honor of being selected for a full-body screening by the machine that bares all, or almost all, to the gaze of the TSA staffers.
Most of us have read about these scanners and the few bold people who have rebelled against the indignity and violation of having one’s body viewed in this way. Some of us may have even thought, as I did, that I would never stand still for it, either.
I was chagrined to discover just how meekly I submitted to the instructions to stand on the marks, raise my arms and not move. It is hard to say what caused me more discomfort, having my nude body viewed by a stranger, or facing my own lack of gumption.
I have body image issues, like many women who have had to struggle to maintain a healthy weight. Recently, I had managed to peel away one of the key layers in this complicated issue when I came to understand that I was dealing with totally undeserved shame.
My mother is strongly prejudiced against even small amounts of excess weight, on herself or others. Growing up, my sisters and I were constantly admonished to lose weight and cover up any unsightly bulges. I can’t count the number of times I heard my mother utter, “She (or he) should be ashamed to go around looking like that!” when she saw someone who was overweight, especially if that poor soul was comfortable enough in her own skin to wear form-fitting garments.
This attitude of Mom’s had so permeated my thought processes that I had internalized her message of shame. I was convinced that overweight meant unworthy of love and acceptance.
Recognizing that false self-talk for what it was has been a revelation to me and I am beginning to appreciate my body for being healthy and useful, even with the extra pounds I carry. The fact that my “ideal weight” continues to elude me is a fashion issue, only, and no indication of my lovability or my value as a human being.
Stepping meekly in front of that scanner gave me a taste of real shame to compare to the false variety I’ve lived with for so long.
Guilt and shame have a God-given purpose. They are warnings that we are doing or have done something that is wrong or perhaps hurtful to ourselves or others. They are nudges to our conscience to prod us into action to make amends or to change our ways.
When we are made to feel guilty or ashamed because we don’t live up to some arbitrary standard of beauty or ability it serves no useful purpose. Instead it leads to a lack of self-respect.
I wonder if our national meekness in the face of the increasing violations of our person, in the name of safety and national security, is symptomatic of a general lessening of self-respect in the general public.
If I had made a fuss and refused to enter the x-ray chamber in Seattle, I would have had the choice of an even more invasive pat-down or of finding some other means of transportation to return to California.
Sometimes preserving one’s self-respect calls for sacrifice, but my fellow passengers and I chose to swallow our pride and submit, as thousands are doing every day.
However, I think that most of us will remember the indignity and wish we had the courage, next time, to say, “Enough”.