Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Snakes and a Plane

I live in Austin. Last week, as I'm sure all are aware, a disgruntled nutjob named Joseph Stack took his hatred for the IRS and the government to the next level and flew a small plane into a building on highway 183. Almost instantly the internet was abuzz with questions: How could this happen? Why wasn't he required to file a flight plan? How could he get away with this? Why didn't the military shoot down his plane? The person who coined the phrase "the only dumb question is the one you don't ask" obviously never heard these questions in this context. The man was a licensed pilot who was given the right, by civil authorities, to fly. To think that filing a flight plan would have prevented him from simply turning and taking aim is simply naive. Even if there had been a warning, the flight from Georgetown to Austin, which took no more than 10 minutes, would have been over before a military jet could have gotten off the ground. It has even been suggested that someone should have been scouring the internet and flagged this person as a possible risk to public safety. Even if this had been the case, his manifesto doesn't read that differently than many political pundits whose opinions are spread far and wide on the World Wide Web. What does all this have to do with snakes? There will always be criminals, nutjobs, psychopaths. Your children are more likely to be killed by a drunk driver than by a terrorist attack, an exotic animal or a killer asteroid. That is the truth. It's the things we take for granted that kill us. There are millions of responsible pet owners in this country. We all have to take responsibility for our actions but we should not be punished for the actions of foolish people who have no regard for law, ethics, morality or common sense. When a drunk driver kills a car full of innocent people do we attack the person who sold him the car? Do we attack the company who bottled the beer? Do we attack the DMV who licensed him to drive? Or perhaps the police officer who didn't notice that he was driving drunk? No. We single him out and hold him accountable for his actions and so it should be. If we live in fear every day and try to shield ourselves behind all manner of law, no matter how ineffectual, we have given up freedom. Terrorism has won. We have become a terrified nation and that will lead us to make the worst kinds of mistakes.

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