Posted by: Dave | December 2, 2010

Just shut up and follow the rules


             The recent decisions by the TSA to require passengers to be subjected to full body scanners or searched through embarrassing pat downs causes both the TSA agent and the traveler to partake in an activity that they both know is pointless.

                But neither party can do anything about it. 

                TSA officials developed these standards on the justifiable fear that a terrorist may use new materials to hide explosive devices in their underwear, and that the consequences of missing one terrorist with ambitious destructive aims would be an unconscionable disaster.  No one would want to bear the burden of letting the disasterous consequences of another airborne terrorist attack, so it is entirely understandable that new procedures should be implemented.  But does it have to be this draconian?

                Many parallels for this dilemma exist, such as with our school administrators, who, in an attempt to protect students from a Columbine-style massacre at their schools, enforce zero tolerance rules preventing guns, images of guns or knives at their school.  These steps not only included rightfully enforcing already existing rules against bringing weapons to school, but also resulted in disciplinary behavior for such innocuous behavior as drawing a picture of a gun, or bringing a toy soldier to class.  Many students, who otherwise exhibited no other traits associated with harming another student, have been severely disciplined for innocuous behavior that fell into the new zero tolerance policies of the recent decades.

            The application of faceless rules, without the use of common sense, enables the executor to act without thought because, above all else, their job is to enforce the rules “for our own good.”  The principle who suspends a child for bringing in a toy soldier is simply enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy for guns and weapons; the TSA agent who conducts a pat down search on an 80 year old woman is simply following the rules. But like field artillery, blanket rules tend to leave a lot of messy collateral damage.

            In both cases, we have taken away the opportunity forsomeone with authority to use their common sense. 

            You can’t complain to a rule, only about it. People are held accountable, but not rules. Rules are made  with the best of intentions; therefore they must be followed without thought.

           We may not be able to identify everyone who may commit one of these horrific acts, but we know who will not do them.  We know it isn’t the grandmother, or the child, or the war vet. The ability to use good judgment could prevent a lot of embarrassing activity, just as it would save some kids from unnecessary punishment.

So how about a little good judgment?

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Responses

  1. I disagree with you somewhat on this one, Mo. Our enemies are surely rolling in the sand laughing at us, watching us wring our hands over how our “rights are being violated” in order to prevent another of their attacks. You touched on a truth of this, that if someone were to get through with some weapon that might have been caught with these methods, that winds up bringing down another planeload of innocents, Americans would be aghast and outraged at how our government was negligent in its duties. If this technology had been introduced on September 12 I don’t think there would be a word of protest but you see, now we’ve gotten comfortable again and sunk back into our self-indulgent ways. According to one poll, 66% of Americans believe the risk of terrorism on airplanes isn’t great.

    And it’s not a matter of trotting out a line as some have, like Benjamin Franklin’s, of “some who would give up freedom for security”. It is our government’s responsibility to defend this nation. We are in a war not of our choosing and wars aren’t [effectively] fought with a hand tied behind our backs. I deeply, deeply believe in our natural rights, that many of them are enshrined in our Bill of Rights. But a bill of rights is not articles of war. And a war brought to our shores must be engaged within our shores. By all moral and just means available.

    It’s not as simple as profiling and stopping everyone that “looks Arabic”. They’re using Somalis, Nigerians, whites, and Southeast Asians. Don’t get me wrong, if there are other methods, use them, including profiling if it works as I understand there are some successes with that in Israel. But use them TOO. And use other methods available in this WAR, like waterboarding and military commissions, not polite conversations and civilian courts.

    And I do happen to believe that there is a benefit to the outcry. Anytime government gets in our stuff there ought to be someone there to smack the government’s hand and make them think about it, just as I believe that it is healthy to have a loyal opposition, people who are anti-war without being anti-American. Americans should not rush into war; nor should they rush into pat-downs.

    But sometimes you gotta do whatcha gotta do.


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