“Remove all items from your pockets. Take off your shoes. Place all your belongings in the plastic bin and move forward.”
These same words on the PA system could work well in prison or at the airport. But this time around I’m at the Los Angeles airport bound for Tel Aviv with a stopover in Istanbul. The walls in the airport’s “confinement area” are gray. The floor is gray. The overhead lights are harsh. Carry-ons are wheeled. Stop. Move. Stop. Elbows bump. Body heat is high. Tensions are high. Energy is sapped.
I’m packed with hundreds of other passengers. An endless maze of stainless steel poles and stretched ribbons contain us. TSA officers stand with feet apart, hands behind their backs. ”Move, forward,” they insist.
The herd moves. There’s a bottleneck ahead. A man takes too long removing his jacket, his watch, his belt. A TSA officer is losing his patience, but you wouldn’t know it behind his manufactured smile. He prods him to move. Gently. There’s no sharp poker to poke his flesh. There’s no stick to whack his ass. He’s not going to turn him to lunch meat. Not yet.
I inch forward, push my carry-on, watch the human cattle groan. The packed surroundings, the heat, the breathing leads me to think of a morning I spent milking cows in Galilee. There too, in the cattle pen, the cows lined up. They hated the place. They kicked their sisters, their milk-laden udders swaying between their rear legs. They stretched their necks high to get some breathing room before being prodded into the milking station. Suction cups grabbed their tits. Milk flowed. Relief. They were turned around and sent back to the pen(itentiary).
Another day in the office.
By if you’re cattle raised for beef, that’s a different story. You endure countless hours trapped in a small place. London and Paris are out. You’re fed the same crap day in and day out with one intention in mind: to make you big. And if you’re sick, you get loads of antibiotics needled into you. Eat. Drink. Sleep. You don’t travel much. And if you do, it’s your last trip. You begin to kick. Your hooves stomp the concrete ground. Your tail snaps. You moo. You sense something’s not right. Your ears twitch. Your blood’s boiling. It doesn’t look good, friend. You’re pushed through the steel cages. Animals with two legs await you at the end of the line. Why are they dressed in white aprons? What’s with the red stains on their uniforms? There’s one brother bull in front of you. You hear a shot. He goes down in a heap.
Take a deep breath. For those of you weak at the knees, take a seat. I’ll let you live.
I doubt we’re suppose to consume beef patties for breakfast, hamburgers for lunch, steak for dinner. I doubt we’re engineered to chew crunchy bacon for breakfast, fish tacos for lunch, grilled chicken for dinner.
Let’s give these fellows a break.
I’m not for going all vegan. Tofu is not my thing. I DO like meat. But we can eat animals in MODERATION. Early humans gathered. They hunted. It took them days to track down one giraffe. They dragged it back to camp, shared it with the tribe. Had leftovers. In Tupperware. Days later they sharpened their spears and went out again.
The PA is at it again: “Place all your belongings in the plastic bin and move forward.”
I move without thinking. My mind’s someplace else. In Galilee. And the cows there. They roam the countryside freely. Happily. Until the day of reckoning.
So when someone asks you to pass the ketchup, or mustard, think of how you last felt at the airport.
Maurice Labi is an Israeli-American who lived in Los Angeles for many years. In 2011 He returned to Northern Israel (Galilee) with his wife and twin teenage daughters. He is of two lands, of two cultures and he blogs about his experiences in Israel, particularly from Galilee where Jews and Arabs dwelled for centuries.
He has also written three novels: “Jupiter’s Stone,” “Into the Night,” and “American Moth” — available at Amazon.com
or at BN.com