Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Assumptions about the Disabled and Safety in the Air

Here's a commentary from a severely disabled Harvard grad who was almost put out of his infant misery by a kindly soul. Aside from the religious rationales and namecalling which have been largely the MSM focus, overshadowed and underreported are the many disabled advocacy groups who oppose the action in Florida because of its implication for their members' welfare and the tacit perception that they'd be better off dead.


The next item is my personal anecdote of transportation security. I was recently flying from LaGuardia to Detroit Metro and had to queue in the longest security line I had ever seen either in person or on the news. The line did move, and considering the incredible masses of people coiling through corridors and blocking doorways (another type of security risk?), I was pleased to get through the mess in 45 minutes. While I waited, airline employees walked the length of the line, calling out flight numbers and destinations, so people with already-boarding flights could be expedited to the front.

When I thought I was almost done, having arrived at the glassed-in peoplequarium which housed the security gauntlet and pat-down artists, I had to shuffle through more back-and-forth cordons like a duck in a shooting gallery. However, this provided a vantage point for me to observe all the lines. I'm always amazed there isn't more loss as people get separated from their parties and belongings, but the line that most interested me contained an airline captain who shucked his shoes and cap into a plastic tub before crossing the metal detector.

Perhaps it's just my turn of mind, but I did not feel a warm, egalitarian comfort that they were also screening the pilot. If he wanted to do harm in the air, what he carries in his brain and what's within reach of his hands has more capacity than anything he could jam into his insole. Should he choose to exercise that destructive potential from behind his bullet-proof cockpit door, even having an armed Federal Air Marshall on board wouldn't help passengers much. Looking at this demonstration of equal throughness, I saw immoderate foolishness.

Rather than guaranteeing pilots aren't packing nail clippers, for this group of persons, I'd prefer thorough background checks, occasional evaluations of health and stress, and perhaps random urinalysis to insure sobriety during flight. But that would be discriminatory, wouldn't it? These days, it feels perversely radical to suggest treating a group differently because its members are and therefore represent different risks.

Current airport security measures are obvious and intrusive, but not particularly sensible or discerning. They ought not to be blanket applications of inconvenience, but specific, targeted measures focusing on what is reasonable and likely and most deleterious with minimum impediment to freedom and commerce in the sky.

Well, I can dream, can't I?

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