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As I See It

Enduring airport security rigmarole leads to questions

Ah, it’s Monday night, January 31st, 40 degrees and raining as our Continental flight taxis to a stop in Jackson. Just a few hours earlier when I left sunny Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, the temperature was in the 70’s, the sun was shining and the corn was growing.

Corn growing in January?

Yes, indeed. In fact, this is the growing season in southwest Mexico and, not only corn, but also watermelons, bananas, peas and tobacco are growing their little hearts out.

The Mississippi Business Journal is a member of the Alliance of Area Business Publications and the group holds a publisher’s conference in January each year at some sunny location, such as Puerto Vallarta. Needless to say, it’s expensive to trek off to Mexico for a conference, but I always get such a plethora of useful ideas that the cost is easily justified.

Several observations about Mexican culture might be enlightening and, even more likely, prove entertaining.
Riding with a Mexican cab driver requires nerves of steel. These guys put NASCAR to shame. However, I’ve been doing this a long time, and I have learned to grab something to hold onto and enjoy the exhilaration of flying down the road, dodging other cars, pedestrians and push carts, without ever slowing down whether on the open highway or careening through the middle of the marketplace.

In general, Mexicans are very hospitable people. In fact, much more so than Americans in many ways. Their idea of hospitality includes some quirks that take getting used to. For example, I have watched in amusement as Americans grow frustrated waiting for the waiter to bring the bill after the meal is over and the dishes cleared away. The visitors see this as a sign of poor customer service. However, the truth is, it is considered ill mannered in good Mexican restaurants to present the bill until it’s requested.

Standing in line

While getting away to this meeting and enjoying some time in Mexico was worth the effort and expense, I can’t say the same for the airport security experience.

I don’t fly as much as I have in the past, and I’m thankful for that. Those of you who must travel frequently, especially into and out of the country, have my deepest sympathy.
Let’s face it, air travel has become a nightmare.

The elaborate security measures, particularly when re-entering the country, make travel tiring and frustrating. Being herded here and there like a farm animal, or worse yet, being searched like a common criminal, is de-humanizing. And standing in yet another line, one begins to wonder: What’s the point of this rigmarole?

Crossing the border? No problemo

Has anyone read or heard of a single instance where a terrorist was arrested at Houston Intercontinental Airport as a result of all the herding, x-raying and searching? I haven’t. Additionally, it disturbs me that all of our state-of-the-art security measures can’t stop the average 12-year-old Mexican kid from wading across the border twice everyday in route to and from his U.S. job, which he does in clear violation of immigration laws.

Further, thousands of freight shipments enter our ports everyday without any type of inspection. Now, if you were a terrorist and wanted to get a bomb into the U.S., would you put it in your suitcase and attempt to get through airport security or would you merely hide it in a freight container and bring it on in? Even the dimmest among us could figure that one out.

Why then do we have such exhausting security measures at the airports that catch no one? Why don’t we inspect incoming freight with the same gusto that we shakedown innocent American travelers? It’s all about public relations.

While our government is desperately trying to get a handle on terrorism it needs to satisfy the populace that all is well and we should go on about our daily lives without undue concern about safety. That’s the function of all that useless herding, searching and x-raying that goes on everyday at every airport in America.

At least, that’s what I was thinking about standing in those endless airport lines.

Tough times, tough policy

Rather than waste billions of taxpayer dollars on feel-better, politically-correct tactics, I’d like to see our country wake up and focus on the overall strategy which is vital to winning this war on terrorism.

And make no mistake, we’re at war. Islamic fundamentalist extremists, as well as other terrorist organizations espousing hatred toward the U.S. and other democracies, want to destroy our way of life.

Unfortunately, most of us are so caught up in our own lives and problems that we only go through the motions on safety and homeland security, hopeful that the government is protecting us. Guess what? This is the same government that thinks taking away nail clippers enhances airline security.

So, when it comes to the war on terror, it’s up to all of us to pressure the Congress, the administration and public agencies to pursue policies that really protect us, rather than merely playing politics.

Thought for the Moment

I have always been fond of the West African proverb: “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” — Theodore Roosevelt

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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