An Encounter with the Civilian Army of the 21st Century

By Guest Contributor

I left the U.S. this Thanksgiving break. France granted me access into their country sans glitch. I glided through their customs saying my bonjours, mercis and je suis americaines in all the right places, and so what if they lost my suitcase.

Fast forward through some crepe consumption, oui-oui-ing and the Mona Lisa and I’m at the Philadelphia airport, which I’ve now decided to be the worst airport in the world, but maybe it’s just the most American airport in the world.

I entered the battlefield of customs. It turns out my passport was mistakenly reported stolen, a mistake I could understand because it was actually my passport card that I had reported missing this past summer after a particularly frivolous and forgetful day at a music festival. The fat jarhead man at the secondary inspection desk wouldn’t hear any of this. His blue latex-gloved hands told me when I could approach his desk, when I had to sit down and that my passport now belonged to them. Jarhead-glovehands then shooed me out of his office and I was off to security, armed with nothing but a photocopied version of my allegedly stolen passport to prove my U.S. citizenship.

Once I got to the front of the initial security check line I had to explain the whole ordeal to some more jarheaded personnel who then redirected me to another guy, this one with slightly more hair and a mustache. In addition to having more hair than his coworkers, he also seemed to have more understanding that his job did not entitle him to a power trip big enough to compensate for an entire childhood of being bullied. But then he winked and told me he had to put his “number” on my boarding pass before I could proceed. I was thankful for the hairy misogynist because he let me skate by, but what if I had stolen my passport? Did I really just sail through the globe’s prickliest security check with a photocopy of a stolen passport because I was an innocent-looking girl? Maybe some feminist wore off on me in France, but for a second I wished I had actually stolen my passport and he would be the guy face-palming himself when U.S. Airways flight #755 to Burlington kamikazed into Lake Champlain because some French terrorist under the name of Meredith White hijacked the plane.

I stood behind my American kinsman sporting their recent tropical vacation-wear with funky corn-rows and their loose parenting style with their kid pawing around on the floor. If I squinted my eyes a little and looked at those shiny arches of the security check that loomed ahead, it was like being at the foot of the 21st century’s Statue of Liberty. Welcome to America, the TSA gates say. The airport personnel serve as our modern day militia. They constitute our seemingly bygone civilian army, combatting 8.5 oz. tubes of toothpaste and pennies left in pockets. How did we become the police capital of the world? With a masterpiece of a constitution and a Statue of Liberty, it seems to be the inevitable fate of our ambitious young nation who bit off more than it could chew. Now we have to overcompensate. It’s the same story as the small kid who was bullied in middle school and then grows up to be a big bad airport security official who confiscates passports. Our security reveals our insecurity.

Written by MEREDITH WHITE ’15 of San Francisco, Calif.

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.