Opinion

Here’s to you, rugged airline passengers

Tommy De Seno Contributor

“If you want something done right, do it yourself.” – Miles Coverdale

One of the defining differences between the American political right and left is their argument over rugged individualism vs. dependence upon government.

When people depend on themselves they thrive compared to those who trust in government, and that’s proved time and again in history. People who took it upon themselves to leave New Orleans in advance of Hurricane Katrina fared better than those who waited on their roofs for government helicopters that never arrived.

Similarly, America has repeatedly seen the benefits of individual action when it comes to battling terrorists on airliners.

The Christmas Day “underpants bomber” was foiled not by government, but the heads-up awareness and physical prowess of other passengers, including one who burned his own hands dosing the flames that could have destroyed the plane.

“Shoe bomber” Richard Reid was foiled by at least 3 individuals who jumped him and kept him tied up for the reminder of the flight.

America will forever be indebted to Todd Beamer and his mile-high militia not only for yelling “Let’s Roll” and stopping the terrorists on Flight 93 from destroying the Capital and killing more people on 9/11, but also for telling terrorists that the fight was on – individual Americans were not going to take it.

Yet despite those individuals succeeding where government failed, the current debate on airline safety still centers on what the government will do with pat downs and full body x-rays rather than what we expect individuals to do for ourselves.

Even worse, the Transportation Safety Administration passed what some are calling an “anti-heroics” rule: Starting this past Christmas week, airline travelers are ordered to stay in their seats an hour before their flight lands. The people in Washington who can’t spot a terrorist when his own father is pointing at him don’t want you to even try to spot him.

It’s highly doubtful that a “stay in your seat” rule will keep a terrorist there, but it will take away the opportunity of some passengers to catch a glimpse of a terrorist lighting a fuse leading to his sandals or his jockstrap.

Obama’s curtailing of individual action stands in sharp contrast to what the Bush administration asked of people after 9/11. President Bush had a policy of asking the average American to be a part of the fight against terror. On December 03, 2001, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge issued this statement:
“The President also reminded all of us that a terrorism alert is not a signal to stop your life. It is a call to be vigilant, to know that your government is on high alert and to add your eyes and your ears to our efforts to find and stop those who want to do us harm.”

The Bush and Obama responses to fighting terror at home personify the “individual action vs. government control” debate.

It makes most sense to keep the individual in the loop to fight terror where the government has failed. That’s not to say America’s intelligence services haven’t foiled terrorist plots since 9/11. They very publically have. But that’s no reason to shut down the American individual as a terror-stopper, especially considering his success in stopping airplane attacks.

While the TSA spends time checking your toddler’s sneakers and your granny’s hand-crocheted purse for explosives, remember this: Even if a law or administrative rule says the government can’t profile, nothing says that you as a passenger can’t do it.

If it’s in your nature to look for someone resembling Timothy McVeigh on an airplane, no one will stand in your way. However, considering that starting with the killing of U.S. Ambassador Adolph Dubs in Afghanistan in 1979 right up to the Ft. Hood terror attack in 2009 most terrorists are Islamic Jihadists aged 18 to 35, Las Vegas-styled odds suggest you might want to keep an eye out for them, too.

So here’s to you, Mr. and Ms. Rugged Airline Passenger. Keep protecting yourselves from terrorists where the government can’t do it.

Tommy De Seno is a political columnist with the triCityNews in New Jersey, a Fox News Forum Contributor and editor of the blog Justified Right. Read more Tommy De Seno at www.JustifiedRight.com.