Of TSA and Trump...

when I travel, which is a lot, I’m harried always and haggard sometimes.

yesterday, I had a nice dinner and a long night’s sleep thanks to a day in airport purgatory—the name that I have given those days when I’m in limbo all day, or for days, between an airport of origination and my intended destination.

what I forgot in my haste to get home to the Chi before heading back to Cville to teach students to transcend the hatred by transforming their minds and by making their bodies vulnerable political entities was this:

every smiling TSA worker, each wand-waving air-traffic control person, all the folks in the tall tower calling the shots in the air and on the ground, they ain’t getting paychecks.

and our president had the temerity to tout the shutdown as an accomplishment, a fait accompli, an act of patriotism in the name of keeping bad hombres, brown-skinned babies, and their beleaguered mamis and papis out of the U.S.

so today, I endeavored to remember today, unlike yesterday, to say thank you. When I arrived at the TSA-Pre security line, I exclaimed jokingly, “Are you working for free today?” The young guy who scanned my ticket from my cell and ogled my driver’s license said without hesitation: “It is my honor to keep you and our country safe. Hopefully, we’ll get paid eventually.”

as I moved through the luggage and body scanning portion of TSA-Pre (a place where I was once assaulted by a worker who decided to explore my private parts and where often, the hairbun I don is probed as though it were a bomb), I said to the beautiful woman, likely my mommy’s age, who ushered me through, thank you for being here today. She said, “Honey, pray for us.”

before collecting my belongings form the conveyor belt, I looked around, made eye contact with as many people as possible, and declared to everyone within earshot: “If no one else tells you today, thank you for your service. I appreciate that you chose to be here today.”

none of these folks expected thanks because what they were extending was a gift. Sacrificing their bodies for mine. I’ll never know the financial fallout of their sacrifice—lapsed mortgages, penalties for late bills, returning Christmas gifts bought for their babies for the cash or store credit. I was nearly in tears as my brain and heart and body caught, finally, in that moment in time, the cost of their labor. The #embodiedsolidarity that they were living—not as sacrifice, but as an act of human solidarity, an act of honor.

The struggle is real, Mr. President. The struggle is for life. The integrity of our government workers astounds me—and to those who are calling in sick, I hear you. Your labor is valuable and so are you.

I have no energy for an anti-Trump screed or for my normal academic analysis. And if you know me, you know I don’t do hero worship or nationalistic sentimentality well, but today, I was super proud of these U.S. government workers. Proud of my country, that continues to function in the face of crisis and tragedy.

I have profound gratitude for the women and men who are working all over the place without pay to secure justice and peace—the common good. I see you brothers and sisters. I honor you. And if no one else says so, thank you, friends. Love and peace from your sister on the sojourn of life.

Larycia Hawkins