It's time for either a little hand holding or berating. But which? I've always been sympathetic to people's fears, hoping to comfort them and help them through the darkness. Even I – with my nearly inexhaustible charity – get, however, to a point where my soothing embrace gives way to a kick in the ass.
And it really seems it's kick-in-the-ass time.
Now, this doesn't apply to everyone. Many Americans have no problem with the airport-screening protocols. In fact, a majority seem to favor the new peek-a-boo scanners, as well they should. These were not designed to thrill, but to keep underwear-bombers and their peers from blowing us up midair. To the people standing in front of airports with ''don't touch my junk'' signs protesting the pat-downs, I say buy a burqa and take Amtrak.
Over at The New York Times, columnist Ross Douthat argues that liberals support the TSA in this instance because Barack Obama is president; evidence that our collective lefty disdain for the George W. Bush era Patriot Act is nothing but hypocrisy. But easing restrictions on reading my private e-mails or listening in on my phone calls is invasive in a way that a pat-down or a nudie body scan could never be. Any reasonable person knows full well that the privacy of one's thoughts is sacred – certainly more so than personal space, even if invaded by an asexual, gloved hand.
When we move from scanners to pat-downs, Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality – no ''truth'' you would recognize, granted – moves the fear from modesty-related anxiety to clear homophobia.
''The reality is, most traveling men would not want Barney Frank to pat them down at the airport security checkpoint,'' he writes, arguing against gay TSA screeners.
First, how the hell would you know what ''most'' men would or would not want? Second, I doubt Rep. Frank is trained to execute a TSA inspection, meaning this would indeed be an odd exercise. But I'm a man. I happen to be a gay one. And I couldn't care less about the gender or orientation of any TSA agent who may have to rub my inseam. I have more sympathy for those agents, frankly, than I do for the passengers. I cannot imagine a more guaranteed boner-shrinker than having my livelihood depend upon spending hours every day sliding my hand under breasts and between buttocks of the nation's huddled masses. Yuck.
Then, in the midst of this disheartening debate, to read that the Marines are the branch of our armed forces most squeamish about gays in their ranks? Say it isn't so. The Marines are America's bad-asses! Were it the pious, proselytizing Air Force, I would not be surprised. But for homophobia – or any phobia – to be most pronounced among the Marines was disappointing, to say the least.
In the whole scope of worldly affairs, there is plenty to fear. Melting permafrost may dump calamitous amounts of methane into our atmosphere, which may just be bitter icing on the global-warming shitcake. Bacteria are evading our antibiotics. These are genuine frights demanding our attention. Body scans and gay troops, however, are nothing more than made-up boogeymen.
So to those fellow Americans who would seem more comfortable under the bed, I borrow a line from Harvey Milk and say come out. Come out of your fear of a black president. Come out of your fear of Iran, Venezuela, North Korea and China. Come out of your fear of mosques and everything Islamic. You are the inheritors of a courageous legacy of forward thinkers who battled kings and dictators and went to the moon atop a torrent of thunderous flames. That's who you are. So be proud, not afraid.