"Airport stripper brings Portland more exposure"
It was one of those headlines designed to catch the attention of the wit-starved. The promise of nudity tied with a rather pedestrian pun.
But I knew the facts behind the headline well before reading what The Oregonian had to report.
Three months ago a 50-year old business walked into the hearts of libertarians and other people of common sense -- in the buff.
John Brennan was at the Portland airport to catch a flight to San Jose. He declined to step into one of the security body scanners, but he complied with TSA's request that he walk through a metal detector and submit to a pat down. The frisk detected the presence of nitrates.
Brennan then did what a lot of us have thought of doing. He started calmly disrobing. Well, disrobed. Where he stood for five minutes until the police showed up.
At the time, he said he did it for two reasons: to prove that he was not carrying a bomb and to protest the process.
But my favorite comment was: "I also was aware of the irony of taking off my clothes to protect my privacy." You have to admire a guy who can sum up postmodernism in a single line.
So, why am I writing about this three months after it happened? Simple.
He went to trial on Wednesday. And was acquitted.
Of course, he was. It was Portland. The Oregon Court of Appeals decided almost thirty years ago that nudity statutes cannot be applied against people who are protesting.
When you consider the fact that Portland sponsors the world's largest annual naked bike ride (over 10,000 riders ran the risk of seat chaffing this past June), you also have to wonder if the Multnomah County District Attorney's office is staffed by hermits residing on pillars.
In an attempt to dodge the bullet (and I suspect to create financial pressure to get a plea bargain), the prosecutor lowered the charge from a misdemeanor to a violation. Brennan didn't bite. Why should he? He had already made his stand. And he had a fig leaf -- the law.
Airport security checkpoints are mere street theater. They are there for the sole purpose of making passengers feel secure. In the same way that children are told daddy is home to scare away the monsters under their bed.
Intelligence operations catch terrorists. Usually, far away from airports. When intelligence fails, so does airport security. And we end up with terrorists from a Jimmy Breslin novel who can't set off the bombs in their shoes or underwear.
John Brennan is my hero. I doubt I will ever go as far as he did. His five minutes of standing in the buff resulted in some of his fellow travelers photographing him and then posting the results on the internet. As you can see at the top of this post.*
But, after years of getting dressed before I head to the airport, and then being forced to take off my jacket, take off my shoes, take off my belt, and dig around in my pockets for any small object that may get me kicked out of the body scanner and into the hands of a frisker ready with an intensive and thorough pat down, I have considered an alternative.
I am seriously thinking of showing up at the airport in my robe and slippers. And then getting dressed after I successfully maneuver the shoals of security.
It would certainly double down on whether a security guard was really interested in doing a pat down search.
John Brennan. We lift a stout one in your honor.
* -- I was going to run a photograph of John Brennan at trial. But that was not the site of his victory. If he was brave enough to protest on our behalf, we should honor his true moment of triumph. Thus, the photograph.