Airport Pat-Downs, Military Checkpoints and the Politics of Empathy

While Thanksgiving travelers are returning home in the next few days and we will see more of their humiliation going through airport security think about those humiliating body searches that are part of the daily life of Palestinians who have to go through Israeli checkpoints to get to work or school and back home again. They are everyday life for those who have to pass through military checkpoints set up by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Protesting the invasion of one’s person can land you in jail or get you shot.  Life of the occupied is cheap for the occupier.  For the occupied, the humiliation of every pat-down has the potential of making a new recruit for the resistance.

Seeing the tactics of occupation imported into our own airports, feeling the personal invasion and violation, allows us to put ourselves in the place of those who suffer checkpoint searches daily because they are Palestinian, Iraqi or Afghan.   When we  glimpse the kind of humiliation that leaves even a Palestinian university professor in tears after being strip-searched at the airport in Tel Aviv each time she travels for research or to give lectures, or feel the internal rage of young men who wait in checkpoint lines for endless hours only to have their pants pulled to the ground when they reach the guard, we will find in ourselves a refusal to tolerate war and occupation.  This is the politics of empathy.

Lets connect our protest of the groping or radiating human bodies in US airports to our governments wars and occupations.  Should not Palestinians, Iraqis and Afghans have the same right to their human dignity as we claim for ourselves in our reactions to intrusive body searches.

About Kathleen Barry

I am a feminist activist, author of five books including Female Sexual Slavery which launched an international movement against trafficking in human beings and a sociologist and Professor Emerita. My latest book Unmaking War, Remaking Men has prompted this blog.
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