Monday, February 28, 2005

(rubber) bands across america

Ok, before I start on this one, I would like to make one point : I think Michael Moore is an asshole.

I say this because I have a feeling that the views I am about to express may court comparisons between myself and his immenseness. To those people I say, the man does not hold any kind of copyright on Liberal opinion towards either Columbine or 9/11, nor does anyone.

The term "Synchronicity" refers to a "coincidence of events that seem to be meaningfully related". I know this not only because I'm a word-nerd, but also because the first music album I ever paid for myself had the same title and was produced by British pop/reggae trio The Police in 1983.

Here are two stories that I feel are causally connectable under the heading of "excessive paranoia".

In July of last year, I flew to America with my fiancee and my two children. Our itinerary included 3 days in San Francisco with my mother, a week in Eagle Point, Oregon with my father and his family, and four more days with Mom before returning to Ireland.

The stay in Oregon was of particular interest as it was only the second time I had met my biological father. I had "found" him via the internet a couple of years before. After a successful ice-breaking expedition on my own in 2003, it was time to bring my nearest and dearest over to bond some more and meet his extended family.

The week in Oregon was a pleasant one for all involved, especially for my (then) 9-year-old daughter, who was in a flood of tears at Medford airport, for all she wanted to do was go back to their backyard and dive into its swimming pool! Added to the tension of her not wanting to travel was the fact that our airline company had managed to completely snafu our entire series of flights, so suffice to say we had been on edge even before we set off for the airport that day!

As any airline traveler especially in the US the past few years will attest, the last thing you want is to be at the end of your tether in the tension stakes when you are about to go through a security checkpoint in an airport. Well, on this day, we were.

As for our travel documents, well I really thought I was the smarty-pants. I had everything pertaining to our trip; passports, emails from the travel agents, boarding passes, you name it, I had it, neatly wrapped in an envelope, bound with a rubber band. Since we could not board a plane anywhere without being asked for some kind of documentation several times, I figured that as long as we had this bundle, nothing could go wrong. Ha!

And so the four of us approached the barrier. I calmed my daughter down enough to let her and her brother go through first. Mission accomplished. Next, Sandra my fiancee went ahead of me. No problems there, she even remembered to take off her belt this time. Now me. I had cleared all my pockets of change, taken off my shoes, and placed my carry-on bag on the conveyor belt. The only thing I had forgotten was the documents, which I still gripped in my hand.

"Sir, you are too close to the girl in front of you, please pass through the barrier a second time."

When the official first spoke, I thought she was drawing attention to the documents in my hand.

I have no idea why I did this, but when I realized what she had actually said and that she was not paying mind to the bundle, my first instinct was to hand it to Sandra in front of me.

Little did I know that this gesture was a clear violation of Airport Security Protocol Number blah Paragraph blah Sub-section blah-blah.

"Sir I am going to have to ask you and the lady to step over here please!!!"

"Ok, but can my kids just..."

"SIR I will ask you a second time, PLEASE step over there and wait for inspection immediately!

Sandra in a blind panic went to hand the bundle back to me.

"MA'AM! Do not hand the item back! Go directly to that area over there! Do not speak, do not do anything but take a seat in that area!"

And so we had to sit in the two seats and wait about ten minutes, out of sight of both my children, until they saw fit to thoroughly search us both, while all the time reminding me how stupid (my word, but the true definition of theirs) my gesture was. We thought it wise not to comment. I also chose not to ask for my rubber band back when they had inspected the envelope.

And so my children, who thankfully had the sense to sit and wait patiently, got a lesson from their Daddy all the way from Medford to San Francisco about paranoia, and how what had just happened was understandable considering the events of 9/11.

About a week ago, in a high school in Orange County, Florida, a teacher spotted a particular pupil playing with a rubber band on his wrist. By the report that I read, when she asked him to give it up, he "tossed" it onto her desk.

After the incident, the boy received a 10-day suspension for threatening his teacher with what administrators say was a "weapon".

Where my fiancee and I were potential terrorists, this 13-year-old was a potential Columbine-esque mass murderer.

To exacerbate the tossing (or even the catapulting as some have suggested) into an offense that could warrant expulsion from the school appears at first extreme.

To play devil's advocate, however, I would be very surprised if the boy in question had an unblemished record of behaviour leading up to the incident. I also feel we are missing some very crucial facts about the case in question.

But as for the paranoia, we are left with this question. Who is to blame here, the people that have the paranoia, or the people and the actions that caused it? It is very easy to say "Aw, come on guys, show a bit of common sense!!!", but the events of Columbine and 9/11 took what was previously known as "common sense" and sent it several times through a meat grinder.

Were I a security guard at an airport post-9/11, I would look at all the faces of the passengers going through my station wondering, "it could be one of them, any of them."

Were I a teacher at a high school post-Columbine, I would look at the faces of all the pupils in my class wondering "it could be one of them, any of them."

I think I'd rather work at McDonald's than have their jobs these days.

Thank you James H Schott and Michael the ArchAngel for bringing this to my attention.


Buffalo said...

I refuse to fly. Not because I have a fear of flying. I refuse because I will not subject myself to the silliness of the screening process. Screw that.
Take off my shoes? Leave behind my nail clippers? (I don't carry any but would certainly start.)
No. I will not be subjected to the tyrany of petty bureaucrats and their minions.
The same silliness happens in other countries. A lady friend of mine was subjected to horrible scrutiny when she departed Germany and landed O'Hara. Why? She over stayed her original ticket. Her mother was terminally ill. She stayed to the end.
There are ways of dealing with the hijacking situation that do not entail this nonsense.
Columbine happened. 9-11 happened. They were both horrible. But to allow fear to control your life? To sacrifice freedom for a FALSE sense of security?
Good piece of work, guy!

jon said...

We are trying to find good online movie to take the kids this weekend. Good online movie reviews are hard to find

I just stumbled onto your blog while looking. Seems to happen to me a lot since I am a knowledge mooch LOL


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