Airport Thoughts

I write this while sitting in the departure lounge of Louisville International Airport. I can never say that name without smiling; London, Paris, Tokyo, Amsterdam and Berlin are just some of the places you cannot get to from here. I think it is false advertising – a bit like “Interstate” highways in Hawaii. But I digress…

It is the morning of September 11th, 2004, and I am “blessed” with a strong resemblance to most of the world’s most wanted terrorists. Years ago that used to be a source of amusement and jocularity to me, but no more. These days it gets me singled out for special attention. I don’t actually mind, as long as people do not assume that I am a terrorist. The gentleman who searched me this morning was very professional about it. I have no complaints.

There is a voice on the loudspeaker system informing me that security is at a high level – is it ever at low level?

Three years ago – almost to the minute – I was at this very gate, putting a family member on a plane. A lot has happened in those three years, and there are times that I feel like we have learned the wrong lessons from that tragic day.

These days we have to stand in long lines, put up with restrictions on what we can take onto the plane that border on the draconian, and generally endure a lot more aggravation.

Traveling by air is no longer fun.

This is not intended to be a diatribe against the Government. Britain – the land of my birth – lost more people on September 11th than any other country except the US.. For me, terrorism is nothing new – we have had Irish fellows running around setting off bombs for longer than I can remember. I have been living in the US since 1995, and would rather live here than anywhere else.

My question is this: Are we solving a problem, or just giving the illusion of “doing something”? Are we solving the right problem?

In bygone years, people went along with hijackers because they figured that they had a pretty good chance of eventually getting out of it unscathed if they gave them what they wanted. This is no longer true. I suspect that if someone tried to hijack a plane today the passengers would grimly line up for a chance to restrain the miscreant by any means necessary. So why are we spending huge amounts of taxpayer money screening passengers? Are we really achieving anything by confiscating little Johnny’s pocketknife and seizing Granny’s knitting needles? Is screening the passengers really the best way, or is it just a horribly expensive way to make us all feel safer by introducing even more governmental powers?

It seems to me that many of the so-called security precautions we are saddled with are more concerned with providing the illusion of security than anything else. Do we have sky marshals? Do our pilots have the right to arm themselves? Are the cockpits secure from in-flight intrusion? Each of these measures would go a long way to preventing a recurrence of what happened three years ago.

In any case, I don’t believe that we need more laws – we have enough of them as it is, and it is my opinion that adding more will not help those who are ignoring the existing ones.

Most of them are based on the Ten Commandments, anyway.

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