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Empty Your Pockets, Please

It so happens that today, as part of my duties, I will be entering a federal courthouse. That means I will have to pass through a big time metal detector.

Now, I don't carry (or own) anything metal that is even remotely out of the ordinary. Cell phone, coinage, keys, pens, etc., but whenever I am dressing for the day, knowing that I will be entering a government building later, I find myself going into a self-protective mental crouch. I always remark upon this to myself, but never really go to the trouble of puzzling out its deeper meaning. This morning, however, it occurs to me -- perhaps because of the pleasant weather and the particularly dirty thoughts that often come with the advent of Spring -- that I must have a subconscious fear of my Dark Secrets being somehow revealed by one of these detecting machines.

No, of course this isn't rational. Most guilt isn't very rational, is it? It's funny because I consider myself a Free Spirit. A Mind Your Own Beeswax kind of guy. And yet, I have this deep, underlying wariness of the dreaded metal detectors.

When I was a high-school aged squirt, growing up in white suburbia, every once in a while somebody, usually a girl, would say to me something like: "You're Jewish, aren't you?" or "You're Catholic, aren't you?" This always struck me as weird because, in fact, I am neither. For the longest time I couldn't figure out why people were making these wildly incorrect guesses about me. Finally, one day, I asked one of these hypothesizers. Her answer was: "Because you seem so full of guilt all the time."

Let us set aside the question of your standard white suburbanite's view of how guilt and Jewishness or Catholicity intersect. That's their beeswax, not mine. What fascinates me is that until that girl said that to me, I had very little awareness of how guilty I apparently seemed to others. Guilty of what? Dark Secrets, of course. These days I'm perfectly aware that everybody has dark secrets, but at the time the existence of my own Dark Secrets seemed just one more Dark Secret loaded on top of the ones I already had. It's guilty turtles, all the way down.

The other thing I've learned about myself, in the meantime, is that I have this very strong urge to not get along very well with authority figures in my life. At some point along this long and dreary road it occurred to me that having and keeping Dark Secrets isn't just a natural human urge for me, it's something of an act of rebellion against said authority figures. It's a dare: Find me out, you pompous windbags. It's a secret rebellion in the name of My Personal Liberty: you can't touch me in my secret hideouts.

But then the bastard uber-bosses invented metal detectors and found a way to make me nervous again. I understand perfectly well the real-world need for these machines, but somewhere in the dark corners of my peculiar brain they have become a token of what I know to be true about myself: I am a sniveling little dirty-minded twerp who likes to think he's a tough guy but who cowers, nevertheless, before the terrifying power of The Man.

Maybe one day I will be called upon to perform an act of genuine courage in defiance of The Man. Not just posting to my blog. Not just participating in a march. Not just grousing with my friends about the sorry state of the world.

At this point, I think I'm kind of hoping for that call. It's a bit much, really, being this pathetic, being this twitchy about having to go through a metal detector, for Chrissake.

Jesus. What a wimp.


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