I have been traveling quite a lot this summer. Since May I’ve been to visit family, attend a work conference, rest-in to a Taiji workshop, celebrate a wedding, play in a sports tournament, and participate in a LifeFinding workshop. That’s quite a lot of travel in any summer, but it’s an especially significant volume of travel after two and a half years of a Covid lockdown existence. Since the world has more or less decided to pretend Covid is over, all that travel has also meant additional logistics. I have frequently been the only person with a mask in a sea of maskless people.
The other thing all this travel has brought to my life is an increased volume of time going through the motions of airport security. In the Before Time (pre-covid) I signed up for TSA PreCheck, so my trips through the US screening process are a lot less effort than many other folks. All it took was $85 and a cursory check of my background. All that Security Theater got me thinking about the many things we all do as part of ordinary life that are actually just make-believe.
Airport security is essentially all of us collectively pretending we can prevent people from plotting terrible things if we stop allowing jelly, juice, and too much shampoo through the checkpoint. Which, of course, we cannot. Ban guns and knives on airplanes and someone wears a homemade shoe-bomb. X-ray everyone's shoes and someone brings an explosive hidden in a computer. Make everyone take their computers out of their bags for separate screening and someone will create another way to disguise their tools of hurt and destruction.
According to many learned experts, the point of TSA isn’t to actually prevent terrorism; it’s to provide the pacifying illusion of safety. That's all well and fine as a theory, but it's critical to consider who is actually feeling safer as a result of all those theatrical practices and procedures. Well-known singer Solange Knowles' hair was searched by TSA because she was a black woman with an afro. By her reaction, it didn't seem like she felt any safer after being manhandled in a markedly different way than her fellow passengers without afros.
This strikes me as the same consideration about police and law enforcement. In the weeks and months following George Floyd's murder, the call to "defund the police" was just about everywhere. I had a conversation at the time with a co-worker about the purpose and nature of police. This colleague was very concerned for the safety of their family without police. So I asked about their experience with crime and their experience with police. They had none. They had only an idea that they could be a victim of crime at any moment, and a belief that the only thing standing in between their current peaceful existence and that frightening potential victimhood was the police.
For that colleague and their family, the mere idea of police provided the illusion of safety. They went about their lives with less concern for their personal safety because somewhere there existed: a cop. The reality of modern policing's impact on many communities is much less comforting. Across the US and around the world the application of policing does more harm than good, especially to poor communities and communities of color.
Law enforcement is a poignant example of the darker side of pretending. As humans we also do innumerable things to make-believe in ways that don't cause hurt or trauma to our fellow citizens. Pretending can also be quite useful and really fun. Camping is like pretending to live in the woods. Vacation is like pretending to be retired. Sport fighting is pretend combat. All these things can help us grow cross-over skills that apply to other areas of our lives, so it can be an interesting way to practice something.
The blessing and the curse of pretending is that we can change our behavior through nothing more than our imagination. If we make-believe something, then we start acting like it's true. That can have a positive outcome if we're pretending a positive thing, or a negative outcome if we're pretending a negative thing. The key to harnessing this power is to make sure we're choosing which things we pretend, when we pretend them, and why. If we're pretending on purpose, we can imagine a better world and make-believe it into our new reality.
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.