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Paranoid passengers
by Asa Butcher
Issue 16
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An article recently caught my eye that highlights one of the biggest problems facing air passengers today. The story detailed the drama of a Spanish-speaking man who was misunderstood by fellow passengers on a flight to Hawaii. Misunderstood means that they believed he was going to strangle a three-year-old child, so four passengers decided to tackle the poor man to the ground.

Luckily, sanity prevailed and the man was found not guilty of interfering with a flight crew and narrowly avoided up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted. The story reveals that the passengers heard the man use a Spanish word they thought sounded like "baby" and quickly formed their conclusions; would the man have been able to walk off the plane without First Aid if he had been Muslim?

In the 1980s, aircraft seemed to be regularly hijacked, or is that skyjacked, but the comparison to the paranoia that passengers feel today is laughable. If you actually cast your mind back to the '80s, were you ever frightened that your plane would be in the hands of Palestinians or other terrorist groups? The thought never crossed my mind, but today we are brainwashed into thinking that catching that flight connection is the least of our worries.

You only have to look at the queues at security control to know how anal it has all become. Nail scissors, nail files and a host on inane objects are confiscated from our hand luggage because that little old lady may suddenly take an airhostess hostage and demand the window seat instead. Funny how nail scissors are terrifying on a plane, but if somebody threatened you with a pair in the street you would laugh and walk away.

If you think the situation is bad, then you don't have the 'look' of a terrorist. Yes, all terrorists now look like they are from the Middle East and we must fear them all because we have no freedom of thought. How much stress must it be for any follower of the Koran to decide to fly today? It would certainly make me think twice, especially with the fear of one wrong word or action meaning sometime with airport officials.

When you now wait to board the plane you examine the faces of those queuing alongside trying to determine if you will be able to subdue them should the need occur. After the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 fought back, we are now being encouraged to physically fight off hijackers and not sit quietly like so many have done before. It is no surprise that the stress and paranoia is heightened on flights if you have to think twice before shouting at the kid behind you to stop kicking your chair.

One of the saddest outcomes of this increase in aircraft security is kids will no longer be able to visit the cockpit and watch the captain flying the plane, which is something I fondly remember from my childhood. Our civil rights and our children's rights have been squashed in the name of fighting terror, yet nothing on this scale happened in the wake of the first, second or third Libyan hijacking in the 1970s and '80s…I guess the nail scissors have become a lot sharper since then.

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