A passenger at an airport in Anchorage, Alaska found out the hard way that you don’t joke around about airport security.
Peter Friesema, who so happens to be a hockey referee in both the college and minor league ranks, had been informed by baggage handlers at the airport that, though his friend’s luggage had been mistagged, all bags were on the correct belt. Friesema responded to the harmless gaffe with a joke, and threw American air security across the Northern Pacific into a panic. According to the Anchorage Daily News:
What Friesema said next temporarily shut down the airport, forced hundreds of passengers into the cold night air, caused many to miss connections, and landed him in jail. “But my friend’s bag has a bomb in it,” the agent remembers him saying, according to a charging document. He recounted it to authorities slightly differently, more to the effect of “what if my friend’s bag has a bomb in it?”
Either way, his comment was “perhaps an effort to be funny or flirtatious,” Assistant District Attorney Adam Alexander said Sunday before Friesema made a court appearance.
In quoting the Yahoo! article, “As a result of his quip, the airport was evacuated (!) until 3 a.m. and Friesema was charged with disorderly conduct. The Daily News reports that the FBI is considering other charges, which could include making terrorist threats; i.e., joking about a bomb and causing the evacuation of a public place.”
In reading articles like this, I’m reminded by what president George W. Bush said repeatedly in the weeks immediately following the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the destruction of the World Trade Center, therein. Bush’s favorite message was that the 9/11 attackers weren’t going to succeed in changing us as a people. Which is why, I guess, we’re still taking the same finger up the butt just to get on a flight to Cleveland the same way we were in August of 2001. Right?
I feel confident that I speak for most Americans when I say that I’m in favor of tightened security measures at the airports. But you can have too much of a good thing. That’s evidenced by the existence of the idiom “too much of a good thing”. And if you’re going to throw an American citizen in otherwise good standing in jail and bring up terrorist threat charges against a him because of a joke, you’re losing the big picture about what America’s freedoms are supposed to be about.
America has existed for 236 years. During that time, our nation has survived devastating economic collapses, attacks, dust bowls, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornado outbreaks, shipyard explosions, pandemics, institutionalized slavery and racism, political witch hunts, riots, a devastating Civil War, several other wars, four presidential assassinations, and has repelled every serious invasion attempt since the War of 1812. That seems like some pretty impressive survival-ism for so vast and diverse a nation; but to a lot of Americans, it’s not impressive enough. In their minds, only one thing is needed to bring this entire nation crumbling downward into the ash heap of history: JOKES AT THE AIRPORTS!!
How many times have jokes brought about the collapse of any society? Think about it. Knock knock. Who’s there? The end of our civilization, thank you very much, turn the page. It’s a notion so ludicrous, even Monty Python did a skit about it.
If a terrorist is going to carry a bomb into or through an airport, why would he tell anybody about it, much less joke about it? I mean, the whole idea is to transport the explosives undetected to its intended target, right? You can’t achieve that nearly as easily if you’re telling everybody what you’re doing. Nobody’s every won a poker match by holding their cards backwards, right? So, it seems that someone who cracks a joke about carrying a bomb is probably less of a threat than someone who is skulkishly trying to slip through a security perimeter by doing absolutely nothing that looks the least bit suspicious. In fact, airport terrorists, as a general demographic, tend not to have a great sense of humor. They tend to be broody, angry, defiant, and resentful. If they had a better sense of humor about things, there’s a really good chance that they probably wouldn’t become terrorists.
This extreme level of backlash over a joke in poor taste at an airport seems to smack of something that goes deeper than the question of airport security and keeping Americans safe. It looks like just one more method for keeping Americans afraid of unidentified threats, just so that certain other Americans can reap the benefits. People who are afraid spend money to ease their fears. The defense industries noticed that decades ago.
I can certainly understand if jokes about bombs, weapons, or other breaches of security can be considered to be in very poor taste. I can understand perhaps a fine. What I can’t understand is why it makes sense that we have tens of millions of people who illustrate their love for America by constantly thinking that it’s on the verge of destruction. What kind of patriotism is that? Why are so many Americans so willing to surrender so many of their readily useful freedoms just so that they can protect other freedoms that don’t benefit them nearly as much?
I do happen to think our nation is dying, but it’s more because of the fact that America is the land of self-dwindling freedoms and the home of the paranoid; not because of jokes at the airports.