By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Sweet Jesus, we should have thought of this ages ago. Why didn't we think of this ages ago?
It seems so obvious. You want to ignite some delicious outcry in this brutally divided country? You want to unite the wary populace around a single, seething hotbutton of patriotism, privacy and putrefied civil liberties?
Do not launch bogus wars that cannot be won. Do not tell them lies about a major health care reform package that actually helps millions. Do not invade their dreams with thoughts of happy gay people holding hands in a wedding chapel. Do not rip their retirement accounts to shreds, sell them bad home loans with a grunt and a slippery Wall Street grin. What are you, an amateur?
What you do is, you go direct. You grope them right on their tingly 'n forbidden genital regions, AKA God's country, AKA Father O'Malley's special secret, real and true and WTF-do-you-think-you're-doing. Works every time. Just ask the Vatican.
Either that, or you demand they submit to a full-body scan of their copious, world-famously overweight American flesh, those bits and parts they don't even share with a mirror much less a giant camera the size of a refrigerator, and then stifle a laugh as you secretly post said photos to a creepy anonymous blog run by the Russian mafia (Note: possible exaggeration).
Basically, you shame and humiliate them, over and over again, in a giant public space, in front of their families, herding them like confused bison through an increasingly absurd, demeaning series of tests and checkpoints. And you do it all under the auspices of protecting them from a few extremist imbeciles who (we are told) want to blow them up and kill their dog and steal their Kim Kardashian pre-paid debit cards.
This is the real way to provoke a revolution. This is a wonderful way to rally the nation, get our values in order and set both political parties scrambling for a tolerable response. In the age of wild transparency, direct genital invasion is pretty much all we have left.
See, we've been going about this invasion-of-privacy thing all wrong. From Bush's illegal wiretapping to Facebook's wily account settings, the panic over personal privacy has been, until now, mostly about data -- your home address, credit card number, PIN, SMS chats, your filthy lawn appearing on Google street views, that sort of thing. It's all vague and rather abstract; we can't actually feel anything.
But this is different. This is literal. Nothing, apparently, sets us off more than some unhappy TSA worker -- an increasingly unenviable job, you gotta admit -- yanking you out of line and giving you the delightful option of getting your entire body X-rayed from ass to nipple, or being groped all over in case you might be carrying something explosive in your pants.
Is that not amazing, by the way? That a solitary "Christmas underwear bomber" has now changed the complexion of the entire country and inconvenienced tens of millions with a single failed attempt? Yes, all this groping is because of one guy, and he's not even Justin Bieber. How incredible is that? Who says an individual can't make a difference? Who says the terrorists haven't already won?
Let's also put aside the assorted political bitching of people like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal -- never one to pass up an opportunity to whine like a goddamn child and blame Obama for everything, despite how it was the Bush administration that invented the damnable TSA in the first place. Jindal says we should skip the groping and scanners and use some kind of profiling instead.
Dear Gov. Jinhal: That's a fine idea. Of course, you yourself, with your shifty eyes and scary, anti-American Hindu lineage, would be singled out for a hard grope in a millisecond. Just sayin'.
And let's ignore the inconvenient truth that a recent ABC poll found that 81 percent of Americans actually support the full-body scanners, at least until it happens to them. Is it not wonderful? Are we not a nation of fanciful hypocrites? Just add it to the list: security cams, irradiated food, red light cameras, handguns in bars? You bet! Except, oh wait, unless you're talking about something near me.
No, let us instead appreciate the wonderful variety of humiliations now pouring forth at the hands of TSA employees. Babies, bladder cancer survivors, prosthetic breasts, the elderly? Done. Exaggeration, alarmism, false reports? You got it. Twitter all achirp with alleged TSA wrongdoing, fully nine years after the agency was invented to force kids to pour out their sippy cups, trash everyone's toothpaste tubes and confiscate 10 million toenail clippers? Naturally.
And then, of course, there's the "touch my junk, and I'll have you arrested" meme, started by some twitchy dude with a cell phone and too much attitude named John Tyner. Tyner's surreal airport debacle launched the year's most juvenile catchphrase -- which, in the Age of Palin, is all you need to launch a new American revolution. Dude, your 15 minutes are going fast. Enjoy.
Here's what I'm thinking: Perhaps we can reverse-engineer this personal groping idea and figure out a way to let it serve us all. Let it be a new rallying cry: Within the American genitalia, true power lies. Grope free or die. Don't grope on me. Who Would Jesus Grope? I'm still working on it.
Suggestions: The FDA ties groping into the new anti-smoking campaign, to accompany hideous graphics of cancer and rotted teeth. Want a pack of Marlboros? First take off your pants and let us take some pictures.
How about a shiny new handgun, NRA-guzzling citizen? You bet. Right after this cavity search, performed by gay married circus clowns on meth.
About to hustle the whole clan to Walmart at 4:30 a.m. on Black Friday to score a pile of plastic MP3 players made by 12-year-olds in Malaysia? Please step over here for a quick feel-up of your children. Thank you.
I know, it's a little vague. I don't quite know the point of it all yet. Problem is, I'm afraid I won't have much time to figure it out before this all blows over and we're onto the next public outrage because, well, that's just how we roll.
You know it's true. Recall, won't you, the general uproar shortly after 9/11, when the first TSA regulations hit the unsuspecting culture? When Americans suddenly faced mile-long security lines and were later told they had to ... wait, what did you say? Dump out my hand lotion? Toss my grandmother's soup? Remove my goddamn shoes? Are you serious? Are you insane? Oh my God, the indignity.
And now that's all just one big, resigned shrug. We've advanced to, sigh, touching each others' junk. What does it all mean? What's the country coming to? Are we safer? Are we stupider? Are we just more awful and annoying than we realize? Is that Al Queda, laughing like hyenas in a cave?