My dad traveled quite a bit as part of his job. I remember fondly going to the airport, riding the moving walkways and collecting Avis buttons that said “We try harder” in different languages. But I most remember standing at the gate, anxiously waiting and watching for him to walk off the plane.
Those days are, of course, long gone since one now must have a boarding pass and proceed through a rigorous examination to be granted access to the gates. As someone with a pacemaker/defibrillator, I was recently reminded of the heightened concerns for security in our nation’s airports. Since I cannot pass through the standard scanning machines, I typically must endure the TSA pat down. If you have not had the experience, I imagine this examination rivals the treatment of prison inmates. Every time I travel by air, I recall our ever-expanding safety priorities and the clutch that the iron fist of irrational fear holds us in.
Well over one million people fly in the U.S. every day. And because someone tried to sneak a shoe bomb onto a plane, one million people must take off and put back on their shoes every day before approaching the gates. (In case you are curious, at 30 seconds per person, that requirement equates to almost one full year of lost person time each day). Our possessions are restricted, probed and scanned, our bodies X-rayed and fondled, all in the name of security. And the sad fact is that anyone who passed high school chemistry could still get a pretty wicked combination of explosive concoctions onto any plane in a modest carry-on bag.
Now, even if you believe this massive bureaucratic effort is worth the price, consider this. With last week’s shootings at Sparks Middle School in Nevada, there have now been 32 school shootings since the murders at Columbine High School in 1999. Thirty-two school shootings compared to one domestic shoe bombing attempt. And yet, in spite of overwhelming support among the American people, we still have no mandatory universal background checks on gun purchases and no restrictions on assault weapons or high-capacity magazine clips. Why are we more afraid of our feet than of guns?
All the American people want is common sense. Even gun owners generally support mandatory background checks. When will our legislators stop acting like petulant children and start showing some real concern for the safety of their constituents? Instead of shoes, we should be afraid for poor people losing their food stamps, veterans getting poor medical attention, and hard-working people without jobs because their employer shipped the work off to China. And we should really be afraid of our crumbling infrastructure, poorly-supported public schools and inadequate regulations on fossil fuel producers.