The End of Sanity?
Scripps-Howard News Service 7.17.02
Bill O'Reilly's one-hour broadcast on the Fox News Channel customarily
covers a number of topics. Last Wednesday, July 10, three of them
induced enough depression to occasion the alarmist title.
The first of these concerned itself with a new entrance requirement
by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. All incoming
freshmen have to read a book about the Koran. Professor Robert Kirkpatrick
appeared in the program to explain and defend the decision. He made
references to 9/11, and the subsequent need to understand Islam.
While he assured us that the contents of the required book represented
what every Muslim child had to memorize, I wonder if he persuaded
many in the audience that familiarity with the required book would
have helped America to forestall, avert, avoid 9/11. Of course,
Professor Kirkpatrick disclosed that he would have made reading
Hitler's Mein Kampf also compulsory in 1941. How that would have
changed the course of history is equally unclear. The troops on
Omaha Beach appear to have known all they needed to know.
That an institution of Chapel Hill's standing would cast its eyes
over the arid desert our high schools have become and determine
that the first of the yawning gaps to be filled is about the Koran
and its poetic structure is beyond the comprehension of ordinary
Next, we were given a survey of visa procedures currently employed
by our consular officials. Apparently, far from declaring any kind
of moratorium with regard to certain places and people, traveling
to the United States remains as easy as pie. Little or no supervision
is exercised over those who are granted entry by the (often local)
persons who work at our consulates - be they friend or foe.
Who would believe that the trauma of 9/11, while causing our president
to mobilize vast forces for the displacement of the Taliban regime
in Afghanistan, left unchanged the procedures that have given us
the 19 men who killed thousands of people, and inflicted billions
worth of damage.
Can anyone dispute that, had these men not been in the United States,
they could not have carried out their acts?
If not, why are we doing everything except making certain that
such men cannot set foot on these shores?
Which takes me to the last, and least digestible, of items.
An 83-year-old grandmother related her trials and tribulations
at Grand Rapids airport in the great state of Michigan. Her metallic
knee replacement set off the alarm. Although she had warned about
that likelihood beforehand, she harvested an orgy of examinations
by electronic wands, in the words of the old cigarette commercial,
"over, under, around and through" her body.
"The old woman will have to be stripped," announced a
"security official" for all to hear in the entire area,
adding - also for all to hear - that she was not going into a room
with her alone.
With that, two of them took grandma into the room and told her
to drop her slacks. Then her panties. Since the "security officials"
had forgotten to lock the door, just at that moment a man walked
in carrying some stuff. (He apologized, at least.)
The point no member of the species "homo sapiens," not
even the Secretary of Transportation, could provide an explanation
acceptable to other members of said species with regard to the purpose
or utility of this occurrence. No possible threat to the security
of passengers could be assumed, nor security enhanced by humiliating
and torturing this old lady.
That leaves us with three options.
1. Our country has acquired the presence of people who are incapable
of applying judgment to a situation, although it forms part and
parcel of their daily job.
2. People in our country have been so intimidated by irrational
regulations, trigger-happy lawyers and capricious courts that they
sooner do the ridiculous, rather than use discretion.
3. We are on the way of instituting one of the most frightening
trademarks of totalitarian regimes giving people of the lowest mentality
police-like powers over ordinary citizens, engaged in ordinary behavior.
It happened in a Grand Rapids courthouse that I experienced the
magical, once-in-a-lifetime moment of becoming a United States citizen.
That was in 1964. Just then, the country was engaged in making sure
we treat all Americans the same.
Who would have thought that we end up treating ordinary Americans
as the enemy?