The big story of the past week has involved citizen outrage over the Transportation Security Administration's invasive body scanners, pat-downs, and heavy-handed tactics.
To be sure, this is a tricky subject. We Americans, of course, do not surrender our constitutional rights simply because we enter an airport (though you wouldn't know that if you were to visit one), but simultaneously, the government is charged with keeping us safe, especially as terrorists develop more and more devious ways to commit murder.
Ultimately, some compromise will be reached. But in the meantime, the fact that this story has become so huge is reassuring to those of us who care about preserving liberty.
Frankly, I had assumed Americans were resigned to the fact that the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on intrusive searches had become just as irrelevant to the federal government as the 10th Amendment (on states' rights) -- at least, as it applied to airports. Happily, I was mistaken.
This skepticism of governmental authority is healthy. What is more, it is patently American. I may be wrong, but I'm unaware of others around the world sparking similar uprisings over airport security. Americans are, in fact, exceptional. We're seeing it more and more these days.
As American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks has noted
, in Greece, citizens protested to "demand that others pay for the early retirements, lifetime benefits and state pensions to which they feel entitled." But here in America, he said, "the tea partiers demonstrate not to get more from others, but rather are against government growth, public debt, bailouts and a budget-busting government overhaul of the health-care industry."
The TSA passenger rebellion is merely the latest example of American exceptionalism and is perfectly in keeping with the nation's ethos. As Ben Franklin declared, those "who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
I wonder how many people will be wearing "Don't Tread on Me" T-shirts as they pass through security scanners on their way to Grandma's house this week.