In the now infamous Wall Street Journal article "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior" Amy Chau proclaimed, "What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it."
Air travel in the United States isn't fun. Not only because of the many restrictions the TSA enforces, but because we American travelers haven't grown up yet. We're still kids struggling to come to terms with the new travel realities in a post-9/11 world.
We still don't wear the right shoes to the airport, we forget to take out our laptop and put it in a separate bin, take off a belt, strike the proper compliant attitude during junk-touching time, or have the nerve to have a reconstructed metal hip.
We need a Tiger Mom and we have one. She's the TSA. Watching over the ranks of unorganized rabble flying through the skies, and she's here to help us grow up to be the perfect flier.
At least she thinks so.
"To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences." - Amy Chau
The TSA knows American citizens are an independent, freedom-loving bunch (also forgetful) and because of that we're the sort likely to break the rules the TSA has been trying so hard to enforce. They're willing to override our preferences.
The TSA is hoping Americans are going to get good enough at traveling under their rules which would allow them to enforce more rules, even with the serious TSA gaffs and maybe even because of them.
With every junk touching patdown accepted as commonplace, and every jar of grandpa's homemade apricot jam confiscated, the TSA inches closer to conditioning air travelers that such strict methods are acceptable and complacency is the best policy.
But judging if these methods are actually working is difficult to gauge with TSA popularity at an all-time low. Over the last few weeks the TSA has filled the news with stories of agents being arrested for allowing a drug trafficker through security, missing a pair of box cutters, and agents patting down kids after they got off a train.
Ask the TSA if their methods are working despite such serious lapses and they might argue there hasn't been a successful terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11, which is a fair argument.
But just over 10 years after the event that shook the world, is the a TSA decent parent or a parent that just can't figure out how to manage their kids as they approach their teens?
As we're living under Tiger Mom's rules we might say, "We're ready! Your rules suck mom!" and shake our fists at the TSA's blunders and increasingly difficult to cope with security measures.
We also might wonder (vocally) if the real reason why there hasn't been any major incident is more because of the incompetence of aspiring terrorists trying to light bombs in their shoes and underwear, or of the heroic actions of flight attendants and passengers who had a part in stopping them.
But it doesn't matter what what we say or wonder because mom won't listen. She's one strict mom and she knows what's best for us.
"The fact is that Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable--even legally actionable--to Westerners." - Amy Chau
All kids wear shoes, and one especially naughty one named Richard Reid from some other neighborhood abused that privilege, along with the right to keep what's in our underwear visible only to us thanks to the attempted 2009 Christmas Day Detroit flight bombing by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, so mom changed the rules for everybody in the family to keep them safe.
"As an adult, I once did the same thing to Sophia, calling her garbage in English when she acted extremely disrespectfully toward me. When I mentioned that I had done this at a dinner party, I was immediately ostracized. One guest named Marcy got so upset she broke down in tears and had to leave early." - Amy Chau
The TSA has a way of handling public perception of their actions. They couldn't care less what the other guests think. Like a Tiger Mom telling stories of strict child discipline at a dinner party filled with parents crooning about their children's sensitive side, Tiger Mom TSA interjects with how her methods -- no matter how strict -- are better and the other guests can be happy with the B grades their kids get in school.
How is the TSA planning to further enforce their parental grip and make earn those As?
Consider Chau's words, "Chinese parents can get away with things that Western parents can't." Last week TSA head John Pistole said the TSA,
Is developing an airport checkpoint of the future concepts that will place a greater emphasis on "cutting-edge technology" and intelligence to differentiate passengers based on threat levels. TSA screens more than 628 million airline passengers each year at US airports" and "the vast majority of the 628 million present little-to-no risk of committing an act of terrorism.
The statement signals a definite shift how airport security could be handled, but implies a level of invasiveness on par with current practices, only approached differently.
Does "increased intelligence" mean increased accounts of people getting on no-fly lists that don't belong there? Does "cutting edge technology" mean installing devices that can tell if you're nervous or see the inside your colon?
Pessimism aside, if the new future concepts are approached with a level of transparency and with honest considerations for traveler's privacy, then mom's new rules could workable.
"That's why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child." - Amy Chau
But at the moment, we kids can't get it together enough to justify why we should get any kind of leniency, so too bad for us. If we find issue with TSA procedures old and new, are we going to stamp our feet and say, "I'm not gonna go to grandmas house! She smells old! You can't make me!" Probably not.
Because of that lack of cohesive traveler and citizen voice, the TSA's Tiger Mom mentality is unable to be countered with any sort of organized solutions, and is instead left to state lawmakers to voice public concern with bills that would make invasive junk grabbing patdowns a sexual felony. Such a bill will go as far as the "opt out day" did. Nowhere.
When New Hampshire's Republican state representative George Lambert was asked why not go after those who make the rules, Lambert replied, "Because the people who are on the ground here are subject to our laws, we control the behavior and restriction of the people of the people who are executing these instructions" and those citizens are "subject to our (New Hampshire) laws."
A "Don't Touch My Junk" bill sends more people into security lines with the mentality that they're about to be groped and sexually abused by people who are following the orders of their superiors and more times than not, don't enjoy touching the people coming through the line.
As sexually desirable as we tend to think we are, we're not. Sorry. A TSA agent isn't the Tiger Mom's dirty uncle looking for a quick feel. There may be the odd pervert in the bunch, but to go into line looking for one is inviting more trouble than it's worth, much like everyone in the mall lining up their kids to sit on Santa's lap and assuming he's a molester.
So where does that leave us kids? Should we shun Santa and not ask him for slip-on shoes and metal-free belts for Christmas? Is there no escape from mom and her firm grasp on our traveling lives? For the time being, no, there isn't. We're stuck with rules the TSA decides to enforce until we either learn to suck it up and be complacent, or we hit our rebellious teenage years and move out of the house, hoping to return back home someday on good terms.
"The understanding is that Chinese children must spend their lives repaying their parents by obeying them and making them proud." - Amy Chau
Now regretfully, we're still kids and we're acting like it. We're approaching our teens, and Tiger Mom is still going to lay down the law whether we like it or not. She'll force us to stay up all night studying for an exam we don't care about or playing the piano until our fingers bleed.
Or until we grow up and learn to take control of our own skies with rational solutions and behavior fitting of adults. As entertaining as it may be, going through security lines in lingerie probably isn't the best line of action.
Maybe we'll strike a balance between freedom of travel and air safety when we do finally grow up and find a way to make our voice heard without lawmakers pushing ridiculous bills on our behalf, or screaming to ban TSA agents from cafes.
"It's funny. All you have to do is say something nobody understands and they'll do practically anything you want them to." ~J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye