The TSA agent who left a very special note in my suitcase last weekend has been suspended. I am still fairly shell-shocked (and not in a good way) by the amount of attention this has gotten, especially since it’s turned from what I thought was “funny anecdote with bigger political point” into a very different animal. I realize when you put things on Twitter they are certainly public and out of your control, and I’m not going to act brand-new here, but I had no idea this would hit such a nerve. It’s very overwhelming, and I want it to go away. I am still in Ireland and would like to get back to focusing on my actual life, instead of worrying about being known as the GET YOUR FREAK ON GIRL for the foreseeable future (I know, wah wah, tiny violin, etc). But to that end, here’s what I have to say about the suspension, and what is basically getting copied and pasted to anyone who asks:
It’s easy to scape-goat one individual here, but the problem with the note is that it’s representative of the bigger privacy intrusions that the U.S. government, through the TSA and other sources, levels every day. The invasion is inherent to the TSA’s mission, regardless of whether a funny note is left behind — the note only serves to highlight the absurdity of all this security theater. As much as this is a funny and titillating story, when I put the note on Twitter for what I thought was a relatively limited audience I was hoping it would open up a bigger conversation about privacy rights (or lack thereof) in post-9/11 America. It unfortunately hasn’t done that, and instead has turned into a media circus. I would imagine that the TSA agent in question feels the same way I do at this point: I just want this story to go away. The note was inappropriate, the agent in question acted unprofessionally when s/he put in in my bag, there should be consequences and I’m glad the TSA takes these things seriously. But I get no satisfaction in hearing that someone may be in danger of losing their job over this. I would much prefer a look at why ‘security’ has been used to justify so many intrusions on our civil liberties, rather than fire a person who made a mistake.” —Note-leaving TSA agent suspended — Feministe
Many atheists spend time with other atheists — i.e., in the supposed “echo chamber” — because we need respite. We need community. There is real bigotry and discrimination against atheists, and we need emotional and practical support. We spend time in atheist communities for the same reasons LGBT people spend time in LGBT communities, for the same reasons African-Americans people spend time in African-American communities. What’s more, atheism and theism are, in many ways, radically different ways looking at the world… and like most human beings, we need and want the companionship of people whose values and visions we share. (And in any case, the notion that in the United States, atheists even could live in a religion-free bubble is absurd. We are surrounded by religion. As Daley himself acknowledges, atheists are generally very well-educated about religion — more so than believers, on average. We’re soaking in it. We couldn’t live in a bubble if we tried.)
And many atheists spend time engaging with religious believers in religious forums — i.e., “picking fights” — for lots of different reasons. Some are, in fact, obnoxious trolls just looking to pick a fight. Some are simply curious and want to understand how religious people think. There are probably lots of other reasons.
But for many of us, we engage with religious believers because we think religion is a mistaken idea about the world that does significantly more harm than good, and we want to talk people out of it. We debate with believers for the same reasons Democrats debate with Republicans, environmentalists debate with global warming denialists, supporters of same-sex marriage debate with its opponents, etc. We think we’re right.
If you think we’re wrong — convince us.
But don’t accuse us of picking fights, or being a skunk at the garden party, or being ghouls who just want to watch a bloodbath, because we’re trying to convince you.” —Echo Chamber or Picking Fights: Atheists Just Can’t Win | Greta Christina’s Blog