Monday, November 22, 2010

The right to whine

Gladly I don't fly much anymore. After my kids were born I haven't volunteered for many work trips, and after my mother moved back from Arizona we don't have to fly to visit family. A friend of my parents was a pilot for United Airlines. By pure coincidence, he retired on September 11th, 2001, the day in his words that: "it stopped being fun to fly."

And how.

The events of that terrible day changed the world forever, the world of aviation being one of the most obvious changes to most of us. The latest developments are x-ray scanning devices that provide airport security officers with images of contraband that could be smuggled onto airplanes, as well as unprecedented details of a passenger's anatomy. Travelers can opt out of the scan if they agree to an aggressively thorough physical search.

Needless to say countless travelers are appalled by such an intrusion of their personal space. Libertarian congressman Ron Paul has authored a bill that would prevent a government agency, namely the Transportation Security Administration, to engage in any kind of bodily contact that would be considered otherwise inappropriate and even illegal in this country. He contends that the TSA violates our basic liberties and is essentially doing nothing to increase safety in the air, and as such, should be eliminated. Government's responsibility says Paul should be to preserve our liberty and not necessarily our safety.


I must admit to having been a little appalled myself when I heard a report that the odds of getting cancer from one of these scans were about the same as being involved in a terrorist attack. Astronomical odds to be sure but it seemed that if it was an even tradeoff, what was the point?

Well the point, as Mohamed Atta and his homicidal companions proved with such deadly accuracy almost ten years ago is that an airplane in the wrong hands can, not only be deadly to those on board, but to countless other innocent women, men and children on the ground. So the TSA not only serves to protect the lives of air travelers, but all of us.

That point seems to be lost on Paul and countless of passengers who have been publicly balking at the increased security. Could there be an ulterior motive from a politician who is at odds with the current administration? I'll leave that up to you to figure out. Ideology aside, Ron Paul's assertion that the TSA is useless and should be abolished is ludicrous. Does anyone seriously believe that we should go back to the practices in place at airports before 9/11 where the airlines themselves were responsible for security? It's hard to imagine.

Someone made the point the other night on a radio program that with these draconian security measures in place, the terrorists have won. On the contrary, the host brilliantly pointed out, the terrorists are emboldened by all the whining done by Americans who feel their liberty is somehow compromised because they are inconvenienced. After all the terrorists, say what you will about their motives, are people who are willing to die for their cause. They can look at us with derision as a bunch of crybabies who can't look beyond our own selfish needs and who complain about a small sacrifice, one not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of others.

More than three thousand people lost their lives in the attacks of 9/11. Hundreds of thousands of men and women volunteered to give up their liberty to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq to protect our liberty and our safety. So far over 50,000 have been seriously injured and over 5,000 of them have died. *

Liberty is not free, it has a price, and thousands of our best have paid the supreme price in the past ten years. We owe it to them and to their loved ones to do our own small part.

If our part is submitting to an inconvenient and possibly embarrassing search when we fly, it's a small price to pay.

Besides, what good is our liberty if we're dead?

* not to mention nearly 100,000 people from Iraq and Afghanistan who have died in those two wars.

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