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The T.S. of A takes control

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By George F. Will
Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fifty years ago, William F. Buckley wrote a memorable complaint about the fact that Americans do not complain enough. His point, like most of the points he made during his well-lived life, is, unfortunately, more pertinent than ever. Were he still with us, he would favor awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which he received in 1991, to John Tyner, who, when attempting to board a plane in San Diego, was provoked by some Transportation Security Administration personnel.

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When Buckley was asked how he came up with topics for three columns a week, he jauntily replied that the world annoyed him that frequently. The fecundity of the world as an irritant was on display one winter evening in 1960 when Buckley found himself in an insufferably hot car on a New Haven Railroad commuter train from Grand Central Station to his Stamford, Conn., home. Everyone was acutely uncomfortable; no one was complaining.

"In a more virile age, I thought, the passengers would have seized the conductor and strapped him down on a seat over the radiator to share the fate of his patrons." But he had "nonchalantly walked down the gauntlet of eighty sweating American freemen, and not one of them had asked him to explain why the passengers in that car had been consigned to suffer."

Buckley, who was gifted at discerning the metaphysical significance of the quotidian, thought that he saw civilization tottering on its pedestal. He was not mistaken:

"It isn't just the commuters, whom we have come to visualize as a supine breed who have got onto the trick of suspending their sensory faculties twice a day while they submit to the creeping dissolution of the railroad industry. It isn't just they who have given up trying to rectify irrational vexations. It is the American people everywhere."

Happily, not quite everywhere today. Not anywhere where Tyners are.

When TSA personnel began looking for weapons of mass destruction in Tyner's underpants, he objected to having his groin patted. A TSA functionary, determined to do his duty pitilessly - his duty is to administer the latest (but surely not the last) wrinkle in the government's ever-intensifying protection of us - said: "If you're not comfortable with that, we can escort you back out, and you don't have to fly today."

Tyner: "I don't understand how a sexual assault can be made a condition of my flying."

TSA: "This is not considered a sexual assault."

Tyner: "It would be if you weren't the government. . . ."

TSA: "Upon buying your ticket, you gave up a lot of rights."

Oh? John Locke, call your office.


CONTINUED     1        >

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