Thankful for Airports

On Wednesday I will be traveling to to Kansas City for Thanksgiving. I’ll be flying out of John Wayne airport in Orange County, and I’m sure it will be a hassle to wait in security lines. I’m sure it will feel invasive and unnecessary to stand in the nude scanner or get padded down, “Don’t touch my junk” style. I’m sure the whole rigmarole of flying on the busiest travel day of the year will be somewhat painful. But I really don’t want to complain.

Rather than lamenting the difficulties and inconveniences of flying these days, I want to give thanks for the amazing fact that I can fly home, that planes and airports even exist to transport us in three hours distances that used to take three months to traverse. What a gift! How lucky are we? We don’t deserve airplanes.

Our culture is a complaining culture, and I’m as guilty as anyone. We are constantly complaining about how busy we are and how stressful work is, even though we’d doubtless also complain if we were unemployed. We complain about everything from the weather to the way our food is prepared to the lack of parking spaces and the cost of gas. We complain about traffic, taxes, spotty cell phone coverage, lukewarm lattes and wifi that isn’t free. How dare we not be given free wifi!

We are spoiled, fickle, snotty-nosed complainers, all too eager to wallow in what’s bad and difficult and inconvenient in life. We spend so little time dwelling on all that we have that we don’t deserve (i.e. everything good). We don’t spend enough time focused on giving thanks for what we’ve been given. It shouldn’t just be one day out of the year.

As I observed the endless articles, blog posts, tweets and Facebook updates last week about the TSA’s annoying new security measures, I thought about how much we take for granted and forget to be thankful for. Instead of being thankful that no 9/11 repeats have occurred in America, we moan about having to take our shoes off in the security lines. Instead of being thankful that we have shelter, clean water, plumbing, electricity and warm clothes, we go nuts when Facebook does a redesign.

I’m not saying there is nothing worth complaining about, or no injustices worth fighting against. There are. We just need to keep things in perspective and focus a little bit more on positivity, thankfulness and hope, rather than grumbling about how much of a chore it is to get on a plane and fly somewhere we want to go.

13 responses to “Thankful for Airports

  1. I think this whole post is premised on a false dichotomy fallacy. It’s possible to be thankful for the ability to travel and yet indignant as basic notions of privacy are eroded for no real gain. Who isn’t thankful that there hasn’t been another huge terrorist incident in America, but what does that possibly have to do with being forced to participate in a meaningless show whose sole purpose is for politicians to show that they are Doing Something about the terrorists?

    Participating in a small measure of resistance against an encroaching security state is not snotty-nosed whining.

  2. I am thankful that my family who have been missionaries can leave Kenya and be in Seattle, Washington the very next day on only 2 flights..where it use to take missionaries months by boat to get home for furlough after 7 years of service.

    Great post.

  3. I am interested to know if you considered your place of privilege (white, male, christian, educated) when putting together this post.

    It’s much easier to tell others to stop complaining when you come from a place of power.

    As a female survivor of sexual assault, I can tell you that when I was groped by the TSA yesterday at SFO, I was flooded with flashbacks of a very dark time in my life. It took me a long time to feel comfortable with my body after I was in an abusive relationship, and I feel that these new “security measures” (that are not proven to work) are harmful in ways that many cannot really comprehend.

    After my TSA violating experience, an agent told me that I would be “thankful when I saw those people praying on their rugs in the terminal.” This is a direct quote, and yes, I reported it to TSA.

    So no. I am not thankful that the government is requiring me to either have my body looked at or groped by a TSA agent. I am not thankful that Muslim Americans are being discriminated against unfairly. I am not thankful that TSA wants to take away my fourth amendment rights. These are not frivolous things- this is not the same as complaining about a lukewarm latte or a Facebook redesign.

    I hardly think that I am being snotty nosed when I am trying to speak up for my rights and the rights of those that cannot speak up.

    Just a thought.

  4. there were no full body scans at John Wayne two weekends ago. So thankfully you won’t have to experience this:

  5. What Matt said.

    The “invasive” pat-downs are bad enough for adults, but speaking as a father, I’m especially concerned by pat-downs given to children. Thankfully, my family has no plans to fly anywhere soon. That being said, I shudder to think of my two-year-old having to go through this, especially as we’re in the process of teaching him that he should never allow strangers to touch him in the manner involved in TSA pat-downs (even those pat-downs that are supposedly being recommended for young children).

  6. Thanks for a great post Brett. While there are appropriate ways to seek redress from legitimate grievances, too often we resort to knee-jerk and vacant complaining about petty — or even substantial-yet-justified — inconveniences.

  7. What Andrew wrote. Thanks, Brett.

  8. No no no. Protesting the erosion of basic civil liberties for the sake of incompetently-staged “security theater” is *not* equivalent to complaining about a lack of free wi-fi. That criticism was spot-on, though.

    Right now, I’m thankful for people who are standing up to this nonsense all across the nation, and for their willingness to inconvenience their travel plans for the sake of all of us who will be traveling this holiday season. I hope that when I fly home for Christmas, I will have the opportunity and the courage to lodge my own protests as well. (Although, really, I hope that we will see some big changes by then.)

  9. so will you be a Jacobs Well this weekend? It would be awesome to high five!

  10. An apt coda:

    Even as a white/male/middle-class/protestant I think I can say that there was a little too much complaining going on in this concocted story.

  11. @Andrew: I don’t see how that’s apt at all. Some of us were objecting to Mr. McCracken’s equating complaints about Facebook redesigns to complaints about intrusive pat-downs that serve no real security purpose. The fact that most of the American public is not bothered by the new security procedures (the theme of that article) has nothing to do with the legitimacy of the complaint.

    Mr. McCracken had a legitimate point about thankfulness and included a bad example to demonstrate it. I think you should be able to take his point without defending the idiocy of US airport security procedures, which are riddled with reactionary thinking designed to protect us from the most recent handful of attacks. This idiocy is easily demonstrable: any terrorist could kill hundreds or thousands of people, and shut down every airport in the country for a week, by setting off a bomb in the completed unprotected security line at any major airport. The snaking security line on a busy morning is the most dangerous place to be during your entire flight.

    • Thanks for the reply, matt; I could hardly disagree with you more.

      The Times piece is very much on point. It demonstrates that our default position is to complain first, and save the reasoned assessment for later (if ever). Thousands of people stormed Twitter to gripe about something that they ultimately determined was a virtual non-issue. We allow ourselves to get swept into a whining mass, and then we move along. This is not the kind of balanced and measured response that advances our civil discourse. And it is certainly not indicative of the Christian posture of thankfulness that Brett articulated.

      Do some people remain deeply concerned about the wisdom and effectiveness of TSA procedures? Absolutely. I count myself among those who are weary of expanded police powers. And that is precisely why I wrote in my initial post that there are appropriate ways to seek redress for legitimate grievances. But whether there are issues worthy of petitioning, and how we petition, are discrete issues. Don’t conflate the two.

      It is possible to offer knee-jerk and vacant complaining about issues that are ultimately of real substance; such responses do not reveal us to be thoughtful people — much less those disposed to be thankful.

  12. I know this isn’t related to the post you wrote (I don’t know anything about these new security measures, and so I won’t comment on them until I take the time to educate myself properly), but I recently wrote a paper where I quoted Hipster Christianity extensively, and thought it would only be right to let you know, and send you the link in case you ever wanted to read it. Here’s the link….

    Thanks for writing your book…it was endlessly helpful as I formulated my thoughts on this issue!

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