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Politically Incorrect

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Are we safe yet?

On Thanksgiving Day, I drove my children to the airport to catch a flight to Reno, where they were to spend the holiday with their dad. I am never a happy camper when I send the children off like this; not only do I kind of like having them around, I have absolutely no faith in the ability of an airplane to actually stay up in the air when it’s supposed to.

After the events of September 11th, I have even more concern about my children flying alone and, just to put the icing on the cake, I got to hear all about the tail section of an American Airlines jet just falling off the plane only days prior to my kids’ flight. Falling off the plane. And nobody knows why. Despite the hype in the news, I do not believe it is my patriotic duty to fly on a plane nor to put my children on one.

It is, however, my duty as a parent to do so. Despite the fact that their father and I couldn’t find a way to live together, my children deserve the opportunity to be with their dad as much as possible. As he works at jobs all over the country, that often means they must fly to get there. So I grit my teeth and pray the entire time they’re in the air.

This was my children’s first flight since the terrorist attacks, and I anticipated that the trip to the airport might be a little different than it was previously. What I didn’t anticipate was how angry it would make me.

On arriving at Spokane’s Geiger Field, and pulling into the parking garage, travelers are now greeted with a sign that reads, “Every vehicle will be searched.” Fine with me, though I found myself wishing I had brought along a big garbage bag, so the car could be cleaned at the same time. I dutifully stopped behind a big Suburban to wait my turn.

The gentleman “on guard” at the parking garage was one of those contract security workers we’ve been hearing about so much lately – you know, the ones they’re debating about federalizing because they aren’t paid enough money to do a decent job. I get irritated every time I hear about that, because you could move all those nine-dollar-an-hour employees into the Clark Fork River Valley and their annual income would qualify them as middle-class – and that’s even before their benefits. I tend to think that if they want to give workers an incentive to do their job, then they should try firing them when they don’t. Seems like that’s how most of the rest of us get our encouragement. And how can Congress be so concerned about employees receiving $9 an hour when they think the $5.75 minimum wage is fine and dandy?

I wasn’t paying a lot of attention as I waited, as about an hour before arriving at the airport I begin my internal bargaining with God about all the stuff I’ll do if He just keeps that plane with my children on it from crashing. So I was surprised at how quickly it was my turn to be searched.

“Good morning, ma’am,” the kid said when I rolled down the window. At least he was polite. “I’m going to need to look in your windows.”

“Look in my windows? Honey, just wait ‘til you get a look at this car. You’re gonna need a shovel if you want to search it.” That’s what I thought but didn’t say, even after he took a quick look and said, “Okay, go on in.”

Go on in? That’s your search? What about that bomb I had cleverly disguised as a box of oil? I have to say; I think the airlines just wasted $9 an hour on this guy. And normally, I could care less except, guess what? That’s my money they’re spending. And yours, too. Not just the $2.50 tax on tickets to pay for added security, mind you, but the $5 billion bailout our government’s providing straight out of the taxpayers’ pockets, plus an additional $10 billion in loans, to keep the airline industry afloat so to speak. Airlines are so important to our national economy, you see, that it doesn’t matter if they can’t figure out how to operate as a viable business. (Southwest Airlines excepted- they have posted a steady profit ever since they started). They still qualify for help.

Inside the airport there was even more security, with each and every employee looking very serious and checking everything closely. I worked security for a while, at two different nuclear power plants, and I can’t help but remember the one thing we learned right off the bat – if somebody really wants to do something, they probably will, and all the security in the world won’t stop it. Just ask John F. Kennedy. Or ask the shoppers in Jerusalem’s Zion Square, where ten people were killed last week along with two members of the Islamic Jihad and/or Hamas (both of whom took ‘credit’) who served as suicide bombers. The security efforts we’re seeing at our local airports today are meant more to help identify perpetrators after the fact, and to deter those who aren’t especially determined to do harm.

“We don’t really mind about the delays,” a gentleman at the airport said to a reporter from KXLY News. “After all, it’s to keep us safe.”

Does the American public really believe that? When I left Pakistan in 1983, Karachi International was considered to be one of the safest airports in the world. There, only ticketed passengers entered any of the airport complex. Once inside, my luggage was hand-searched before it was sent to the plane. I had my daughter, Misty, who was two years old at the time, along with me. We were both physically searched, at gunpoint, five times before we were allowed to board the plane. This was a safe airport – and a few years later, a plane was hijacked there.

Even with all this, I wasn’t angry, however. That didn’t happen until my return trip to the airport to pick up my children. “I’m sorry, you can’t go through security to get them,” the ticket agent told me.

“I’m sorry, but you just try and stop me,” was my response. Spokane security saw things my way, and I was at the gate to meet my children when they got off the plane. And to learn that, in Reno, their father had not been allowed to be.

Dustin is 14—a small 14. Amy is just 10. How secure are they wandering around a large airport trying to find their father? (And no, airline personnel did not help them out.) They did eventually find the place where they needed to go, but on Thanksgiving Day, my tax money went to provide support to a company that put my children in an unsafe position in the name of security. What are the odds of a terrorist attack on the Reno airport? And what are the odds of some child molester preying on unescorted children at a busy airport? If you’re going to deny parents the ability to protect their children, then who’s going to step in and keep them safe?

I hope we really don’t believe that what’s going on in American airports today is either designed or intended to keep us safe. Because if we do, we’ll continue to let our money be frittered away in wasteful attempts to appease our fears, while little is done to do what’s necessary to truly be vigilant in the protection of the American public– and most especially in the protection of our children.

 

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Landon Otis

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Thanksgiving, flying, security

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