Condition Orange

I’ve flown or picked up passengers at Denver International Airport dozens of times in the past eight years. In all that time, the “threat condition” has been at a perpetual Condition Orange, one notch below Condition Red, the highest threat level. It has never dropped. It has never gone any higher.

For years, paper notices hung on glass doors of DIA declaring the increase in threat level. Both the paper and the tape holding the paper in place had yellowed with age, and the ink had faded. They have taken the papers down in the last two years, and the loudspeakers no longer announce that the threat level has been “raised” to Condition Orange, only that the threat level “is” at Condition Orange.

At the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, a large metal sign advises entering traffic of the increased threat level. The bolts holding the sign in place have rusted.

Eight years of unvarying Condition Orange? Obviously not.

So what does this really mean? It was best-said by a TSA employee, who responded to an irate airline customer with the words, “You gave up a lot of rights when you bought your ticket.”

As we move into a post-oil, post-empire, post-democracy United States, this is the truth behind every call for national security: we gave up a lot of rights when we bought our ticket.

That’s the lie we’re supposed to believe, anyway.

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