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Richard Forno’s article not only points to the absurdity of the TSA’s “porno scanners,” but to the reason that many Americans are willing to accept such an invasion of privacy–the myth of a “zero-risk culture.” Forno has hit the nail on the head. Why does one poll indicate that 80% of Americans support full-body scanners? Was the poll badly done? I hope so. I hope that Americans have not bought the idea of a world without risk to the point that they would give up all their freedoms for the myth of an absolutely secure world.

When I was a child, I rode my bicycle quite a bit–without a helmet. I played in the back yard by myself. I rode in the back of my Dad’s pickup truck on the freeway on the way to the Mall. I sat on a bale of hay near the bottom of a stack as the loaded truck drove down the highway at 40 mph. Was there risk in those activities? You betcha. Should I have avoided doing those things? Hell, no. Risk is a part of life. There is a risk of terrorist attack–it would be naive to deny that. But the risk of dying of heart disease, stroke, cancer, pneumonia, the flu, auto accidents, gunshot wounds (with the perpetrators being Americans), lightening–all these risks are greater than the risk of being killed in a terrorist attack–even for frequent air travelers. Many Americans want a society that controls all risk–controls which foods people eat, what they can drink, what they can smoke, whether they can sit on the back of a pickup, how they should ride their bicycles, and whether they can fly on an airplane without being virtually stripped naked. The sad thing is that we’re all going to die anyway. There is room for common sense controls that minimize risk of harm–but to invade the most private aspects of daily life smacks of totalitarianism. The government becomes a nanny, or at worst an abusive parent, and the people become docile children. Hopefully enough pampered Americans will grow up before the country in which they were reared grows unrecognizable. The saddest thing is that so many would not care.