Monday, May 16, 2011

Trust Within the Walls

“Trust, but verify,” was President Reagan’s shorthand phrase for his stance in nuclear arms control talks with Mikhail Gorbachev.

A generation later, as applied to American airport security, the phrase is need of amendment. Verify, yes — but there’s no trust.

A week ago, I experienced this trying to get through security at the Denver airport. I was pulled out of line, an officer opened my carry-on bag, and my shampoo was confiscated. Because I don’t fly all that often, I had inadvertently violated the “3-1-1” rule put in place at some point after the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

3-1-1 stands for 3 ounces of liquid, packed in 1 clear plastic, with no more than one bag per person.

The officer who opened my carry on and took my shampoo was respectful. But it was weird to be in a position where the entire relationship was premised on the absence of trust. That is the very opposite of relational dynamics under which most of us try to live our lives.

The experience did, however, help me understand better what it must be like to be in prison. Being an inmate must be somewhat like going through airport security 24/7, every day for months and years on end.

In this sense, my encounter with Denver’s strict airport security was a fitting conclusion to my trip to attend the spring board meeting of Prison Congregations of America. For PCA seeks to break down the walls of mistrust within the walls of correctional institutions by creating Christian congregations among inmates.

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