Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Jan. 11, 2001 / 16 Teves, 5761

Bob Greene

Bob Greene
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Arianna Huffington
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
MUGGER
Kathleen Parker
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports


The day that America heard the locks click shut


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- ORLANDO | The other day, in newspapers all across the country, the usual list of this-date-in-history items appeared. You know the lists: Many papers run them every day. Such-and-such a king was born on this date in 1583, such-and-such an invention was come up with in 1824, such-and-such a sports record was set in 1917.

On this particular morning, the list included a date that likely has influenced our lives more profoundly than we customarily stop to think about. No one will ever declare it a national holiday, nor should they; most of us don't have any idea when exactly this event occurred.

But it happened in January of 1973. As the item in the this-date-in-history list put it:

"U.S. airlines began routine preflight scanning of passengers with electronic weapons detectors in a move to reduce hijackings."

That's how long it has been now: 28 years. Children who have been born in the time since then -- and many of those children are adults now -- have no memory at all of things ever being different. You go to an airport, you stand in line, and you and your possessions are electronically frisked. There's not the least controversy about it -- if you're going to fly, you're funneled through the security checkpoint.

Yet all through the air age before 1973, this didn't happen. You drove out to the airport, you walked up to the gate, you boarded the plane, and you went.

Who checked you to make sure you weren't carrying explosives or weapons?

No one did.

Why not?

Because they just didn't -- the assumption was that you (and not just you; every passenger on the plane) were a sane person of good disposition, and of course you would not do anything deadly on the flight.

Today, if the government were to announce that it was going back to the old way -- that airports were returning to being wide open, that all passengers were free to simply walk on board -- there would undoubtedly be protests from the public. Would you want to get onto a plane on which the passengers had been assured no one was going to check any of them? Would you bet your life on the goodwill of every fellow passenger?

That's why the January date in 1973 is so symbolic. It was a dividing line. Think of all the things that are a part of our daily lives today that weren't in January of 1973:

Offices in which we are required to carry electronic key cards to gain access to our work areas. Government buildings with airport-style security sheds at each entrance, and uniformed guards watching everyone who passes through. Over-the-counter medicine bottles that are triple-sealed so that we will know if anyone has tried to tamper with what's inside. Cameras pointed at us everywhere we go, sending video signals to unseen men and women who are paid to keep an eye on us, and be alert to the possibility of us doing something unusual. Hotels in which room locks and keys are electronically reconfigured every time one guest checks out and another checks in.

Good ideas? You can make the argument that they are -- that without them, our lives would be much less secure.

But somehow, from the founding of this nation all the way up to 1973, we managed to get along without these devices. Somehow -- before the metal detectors and all their surveillance-and-protection offspring were bestowed upon us -- we (or, more correctly, our forebears) lived lives unlocked.

On that January day in 1973, it didn't seem that the world was changing forever; on that January day the arrival of the metal detectors at the airports seemed mostly like a curiosity. But that was the beginning; that was the inscribing of the line. Would we have accepted it so unquestioningly, had we known what was ahead? Would we have paid it so little heed, had we been told that the metal detectors were only a preview of how we would be soon exist in a society ceaselessly striving for airtightness?

Probably. Probably we would have grudgingly said: Yes. Go ahead. Why? In the name of security. That's what we called it then, and that's what we call it now. Security. A funny word to use, to describe an era so insecure and nervous that even our grandparents who survived the Great Depression and two world wars would, if they were still around, shake their heads at the standardized national skittishness.

And wordlessly line up to be X-rayed and metal-detected before flying off to see the grandkids.



JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

Up

12/28/00: The talk of 2000? It's right there in your hand
12/27/00: There actually is a lesson for us in all of this
12/26/00: 'You weren't supposed to love me; that wasn't the program'
12/21/00: The words from this election year that may echo the longest
12/19/00: The most impressive things are the ones strategists can't shape
12/14/00: There is a word for what the country is going through
12/13/00: Courtroom moments that never make the front page
12/07/00: Does Justice Scalia really believe Americans can't take the truth?
12/07/00: Al Gore slept here -- and there goes the neighborhood
12/06/00: In the midst of all the noise, the truth will be heard
12/05/00: If you think the election has been weird up until now ...
11/30/00: If two men applying for a job were treated like this ...
11/29/00: Will all of this turn people away from politics? Dream on
11/28/00: Send Bush and Gore to their rooms -- bring in the pros
11/23/00: Three little words-- and two strange weeks in Florida
11/22/00: Did you hear the one about the farmer's daughter in Florida?
11/21/00: The shocking saga of the incredible shrinking men
11/15/00: The glorious mess that has come our way
11/09/00: How do you cross the line when the line has vanished?
11/08/00: The wave of the future
11/06/00: The crime that hides behind a wall of silence
11/02/00: If you have been asking yourself what you can do ...
11/01/00: 'He will never know what it is like to ride a bicycle'
10/31/00: 'It makes you feel that you are absolutely powerless'
10/30/00: THE KILLER LEARNS 'ANGER MANAGEMENT' AND IS FREED
10/26/00: `I'm not going to go up there and yell and scream'
10/25/00: With prosecutors silent, the other killer is released
10/24/00: The boy's killer: 'I've served my time, and I'm out'
10/23/00: Blaming the boy for bringing on his own killing
10/20/00: The child's killer is released -- to care for other children
10/19/00: Words that the judge would not allow to be spoken
10/18/00: A courthouse game in which the boy was not included
10/17/00: The killers get 7 to 25 years ... with a wink
10/13/00: While the killers maneuver, the boy goes unburied
10/13/00: The killers demand a concession -- and they get it
10/12/00: The prosecutors decide it doesn't qualify as murder
10/11/00: 'He wouldn't eat his eggs, and we put him to bed'
10/10/00: The autopsy leaves no questions: 'It was a homicide'
10/06/00: 'Had they shot him in the head, he would have suffered less'
10/05/00: 'I remember the moment that I first saw the human bite marks'
10/04/00: They killed a 3-year-old boy -- and they are free
09/29/00: This just in, sort of: How the news can make you calm
09/27/00: Like being with old friends in places you don't remember
09/21/00: If the Olympics banished television . . .
09/19/00: As summer ends, have the executives learned any lessons?
09/14/00: The new stardom that doesn't require paying any dues
09/12/00: Leave a light on for us children of the pioneers
09/09/00: River banks? How to turn water into an endless cash flow
09/06/00:Oh, give me a home, where the megabytes roam . . .
09/01/00: If this works, it can literally change young lives
08/30/00: From inside all those screen porches, one more cheer
08/24/00: Who will make your life better by August of 2004?
08/24/00: Four men running -- Why do we have to throw out two?
08/16/00:The certain way to measure the Lieberman factor
08/10/00: Can a library be a library without books?
08/08/00: Can't they spare eight nights every four years?
08/04/00: Cheney, Abe Lincoln and Ricky Martin -- do they add up?
08/02/00: Convention aside, you might want to tune in
07/27/00: How to make a killing
07/25/00: 'If we didn't do it, no one else would'
07/24/00: The executioners who walk among us
07/20/00: On Main Street, signs of the times tell two stories
07/18/00: Have the choices changed, or have we?
07/14/00: Gable, Hepburn, Zanuck--you wouldn't find them at HOJO's
07/13/00: The Great Lie about political conventions
07/06/00: If this is victory, what would defeat feel like?
06/29/00: A bright moon and a missing person on Orange Ave.
06/26/00: They're not singing our song
06/22/00: The name game
06/07/00: It's like knocking on a revolving door
06/06/00: Steven who? A close encounter of mistaken identity
06/02/00: Of summer days, summer nights and pebbles in a jar
05/31/00: The best laughter, the truest voices, will never fade
05/25/00: Of distant visions, close views, and Bobby Knight
05/24/00: 'The luckiest thing that ever happened to me'
05/23/00: 'It's funny how you remember the little things'
05/22/00: 'The whisper of a generation saying goodbye to its children'
05/19/00: The place to find life is not a keyboard
05/18/00: A problem of suds but no duds
05/17/00: Are those lazy, hazy dot-com days fading?
05/16/00: The truest things in life require not a single word
05/15/00: 'Evidently he didn't like the way she dusted the house'
05/12/00: Why news executives are hoping this 'woman' is a hit
05/11/00: Ted Koppel, Hitler, Mellencamp . . . and words of love
05/10/00: Maybe it's time for the right people to hear our cheers
05/09/00: The lesson that they always learn late
05/05/00: 'Excuse me, but there seems to be something in my water'
05/05/00: When your first dream turns out to be your best dream
05/04/00: Even baseball couldn't make light of this superstition
05/03/00: The ringmaster who looks back from your mirror
05/02/00: There they go, just a-yappin' down the street . . .
05/01/00: You must remember this (Unless you don't)
04/24/00: Now that casino ads are allowed to tell the truth . . .
04/13/00: The man in the seat across the airplane aisle
04/11/00: A star is born, but do you know where it's @?
04/06/00: Through the eyes of Norman Rockwell
03/21/00: 10 good reasons to avoid making this list
03/21/00: 'I tell myself that they've gone on vacation'
03/21/00: Monday Night Football memories
03/02/00: This report card deserves an 'A' in every subject
02/29/00: What really happened on New Year's eve
02/23/00: Of paste pots, Denver sandwiches and finding Dr. Sam
02/17/00: What would you like to stay exactly the same?
02/04/00: Politics: When did the stagehands step onto the stage?
02/01/00: An awesome idea to make you sound better
01/26/00: Y3K already? We haven't yet recovered from Y2K
01/21/00: Watching the pot that always boils
01/19/00:The story behind the men on the museum steps
01/13/00: Here's to the students who never hear a cheer
01/11/00: The oh-so-sweet sound of modems in the morning
01/04/00: The person in your mirror just got wiser
12/31/99: A lesson -- and a memory -- to last a millennium
12/29/99: Racing the clock, even when it's running backwards
12/13/99: The right to bear coffee
12/08/99: From teen idol to ink-stained wretch: Can you Dig it?
12/02/99: Human 'search engines'
11/30/99: Here's looking at you -- now hand over the cash
11/23/99: Who'll say 'I'm sorry' to the other Decatur students?
11/18/99: "From bad things, good can come"
11/16/99: The man who didn't know the meaning of 'whatever'
11/12/99: Is this progress? We have made the weekend obsolete
11/09/99: Today he would probably be called Kyle Kramden
11/04/99: And you thought the IRS was heartless
11/02/99: When it's free, what will the real price be?
10/29/99: The tissue-thin decisions that define who we are
10/26/99: One way to cut road rage down to size
10/22/99: Asking all the right questions takes a special pitch
10/18/99: The signs are talking to you; Are you listening?
10/12/99: Even Capone would be disgusted
10/08/99: Don't ever look your neighborhood bear in the eye
10/06/99: Land of the free and marketplace of the brave
10/04/99: German warplanes in American skies
09/30/99: While you fret, something is sneaking up on you
09/28/99: In these busy times, why not bring back a certain buzz?
09/24/99: The storms whose paths no one can track
09/21/99: Who's minding the store? Oh . . . never mind
09/17/99:Here's another place where you can't smoke
09/14/99: As certainly as `lovely Rita' follows `when I'm 64' . . .
09/09/99: Why is patience no longer a virtue?
09/07/99: Once upon a time, in an airport close to you . . .
09/03/99: The answers? They are right in front of us
09/01/99: Up the creek with a paddle--and cussing up a storm
08/30/99: $1 Million Question: How'd we get to be so stup-d?
08/27/99: Fun and games at Camp Umbilical Cord
08/25/99: How life has been changed by the woodpecker effect
08/23/99: If you don't like this story, blame the robot who wrote it
08/20/99: A four-letter word that has helped both Bob and Rhonda
08/18/99: They have picked the wrong country
08/16/99: From paperboy to stalker--how the news has changed
08/12/99: Why wasn't anyone watching his brothers?
08/10/99: Come to think of it, stars seldom are the retiring type
08/05/99: The national gaper's block is always jammed
07/29/99: 'Can you imagine the gift you gave me?'
07/27/99: A view to a kill -- but is this really necessary?
07/23/99: Some cream and sugar with your turbulence?
07/21/99: When your name is JFK jr., how do you choose to use it?
07/19/99: The real world is declared not real enough
07/15/99: The real victims of cruel and unusual punishment
07/13/99: A 21st Century idea for schools: log off and learn
07/09/99: Are life's sweetest mysteries still around the bend?
07/07/99: Of great minds, cream cheese and Freddy Cannon
07/02/99: The perfect spokesman for the American way
06/30/99: 'He's 9 years old . . . he trusts people'
06/28/99: A $581 million jackpot in the courthouse casino
06/25/99: A nighttime walk to a House that feels like a cage
06/23/99: At least give men credit for being more morose
06/18/99: On Father's Day, a few words about mothers
06/16/99: If work is a dance, how's your partner doing?
06/14/99: Should a dictionary ever tell you to keep quiet?
06/10/99: A story of Sex, the SuperBowl and your wife
06/07/99: Take a guess where "California Sun" is from
06/03/99: Of summer days, summer nights and pebbles in a jar
06/01/99: Putting your money where their mouths are
05/27/99: Pressed between wooden covers, the summer of her life
05/25/99:The lingering song of a certain summer
05/24/99:We could all use a return to the Buddy system
05/20/99: Now, this is enough to make James Bond double-0 depressed 05/17/99: It's midnight -- do you know where your parents are?
05/13/99: And now even saying "thank you" creates a problem
05/11/99: The answer was standing at the front door

©1999, Tribune Media Services