Rural Missouri Magazine

Land of the free

by Frank Stork

An anthem is defined as a song of praise to a nation. Our national anthem ends with the words “The land of the free and the home of the brave.”

On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., I flew into Reagan National Airport. Things have changed there. Where thousands used to move about freely, few people were entering or leaving the cavernous facility.

After disembarking and walking to the main terminal, I saw departing passengers waiting in slow-moving lines. After an ID check at the airline desk, each passenger was issued a boarding pass and asked to proceed directly to a luggage X-ray machine.

A stone-faced uniformed civil servant asked each person to remain in sight until his or her baggage passed through. If everything checked out, the passenger was instructed to proceed to their departing concourse. On their way, they would be under the surveillance of armed military guards.

Upon departure three days later, I learned that when you reached the concourse, you were required to produce your ticket and driver’s license again. Once through that barrier, we were asked to advance and remove all metal objects from our pockets. They kept my stainless steel money clip given to me by a friend 20 years ago because it had a short file folded into it.

After walking through the screening machine, I walked to the departing gate to wait for the boarding call. Before boarding, passengers were persuaded to go to the restroom because we would remain strapped in our seat for 30 minutes after take off. There would be no moving about the aisles or using the lavatory until we had traveled a far distance from our nation’s capital city.

Before entering the airplane, we were asked for identification one more time. Once aboard, I hurried to my seat, strapped in and looked straight ahead to avoid attention. I felt I was being watched.

The land of the free and the home of the brave is a different place these days. After going through the tight security, I didn't feel very brave. Also, I felt I had no choice but to accept the fact that I wasn't as free as I used to be.

We accept this extraordinary security surveillance because we know it is currently necessary. Will we soon be demanding that air travel return to what we knew before or be like the frog that died in boiling water? That is, if we were to put a frog in a pan of cool water and slowly increase the temperature, the frog would remain in the pan until cooked.

Air travelers want to support President Bush and our military forces in the campaign to end terrorism worldwide. Our message to the world must be that we can endure anything, for as long as it takes, to wipe out the terrorist threat.

But with that, we cannot gradually accept obtrusive surveillance by civilian and military armed guards. We want our children and grandchildren to know, as we did only a short time ago, “the land of the free” that we praise in our national anthem.

Stork was executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and a member of Three Rivers Electric Co-op.


Rural Missouri | June 2020 Issue

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