Commentary: The Sacrifice for the Freedom of Movement
How did we get to this point as a country?
I'm sure we got all of the answers available to us. It's all over social media, the web, traditional electric and print media, too. They range from quiet reflection to angry argumentation. As a rule in media, the loudest voice in the room gets all of the attention. And we ride that voice through every corner of the media until we are completely sick of quoting it.
Our opinions are equally divergent. In Civics class, we call this a democracy. There should be room for all voices. The caveat is that a democracy cannot allow for a voice to rise above all others by force without a peaceful rebuttal. Or, at least, that is how I interpreted what a democracy is back in my school days.
What do you believe? Hell, what do I believe?
I'm asking this over a week after the observance of Memorial Day – our most solemn national holiday. It was a day where we honor those who served in the name of the United States of America and never came back. They died in the name of duty, honor and in defense of global peace.
Still, there had been debates on how much we should celebrate this day. Rather, the temper of how we commemorate our fallen members of the this country's armed forces. We often travel during this first three-day weekend on our national calendar. Travel is our way to connect the dots in our lives and link with those who think fondly of – even objects of nature and architecture.
Because we are a democracy, we had been able to adjust and be flexible about how we travel for the past 16 years. The attacks of September 11, 2001 in this country signaled a dramatic change in how we go from place-to-place by adhering to additional security measures and restricting what we can or cannot take with us when traveling by an airliner.
The airliner have become one of our most preferred way to go from place-to-place. That, and the automobile, with trains and intercity buses falling well behind on the travel food chain. Yet, we put a lot of emphasis on airliners since we found it convenient to go somewhere even with restrictions imposed on our freedom to travel.
Travel by airliner is not fool proof. Take some recent issues, if you will. A failure with British Airways' information technology infrastructure caused a mass of cancellations across the entire flight network. It did not help to hear about customer service failures at all London airports and across the globe where British Airways flies. Several unions were ready to shut down Alitalia's operations as the Italian flag carrier had been going through severe financial shortfalls creating a chasm between the airline, the Italian government and its employees.
Now, thanks to social media and smartphone technology, we can see other failures of our air transport system. For the sake of our collective souls, I shall not make mention of these incidents.
I like flying by airliner. The last flights to and from Dallas-Fort Worth were indeed a personal highlight in this work. The satisfaction of travel by flight still inspires me. When I find myself in a YouTube rabbit hole, I often watch videos of vloggers enjoying flights across the globe showcasing "products" of various classes on many airlines. It is a form of geekery that fuels my love of travel.
When I do travel by air, it is for business. I believe I said that more than a few times on this site. When traveling for business, you need to have your tools ready to go. Your time in the air can be put to use, right? The final notes on an article, impressions on a media drive, reviewing data, and so forth can be done above 10,000 feet in the air.
Now comes the word from U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly where the current ban on laptops inside airline cabins affecting flights from 10 Middle Eastern and African countries will be expanded to every international flight to/from this country. He said so on "Fox News Sunday" the day before Memorial Day, in case you missed it.
In other words, there will become a time when I cannot take my most important tool in my work on a flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Toronto if this policy is expanded.
This and another travel ban currently in place (though the later is being challenged in the Federal courts) were reiterated by the President of the United States of America. He did so via a Tweet in light of the two attacks in London last Saturday night.
When your home government wants to restrict your ability to travel further, you have to wonder whether it is worth traveling at all. Granted, I have options. One, would be to say "no" to trips outside the USA – even Canada. Two, is to find alternative modes of transport that could cost less, but will take longer to get to where I need to be. Third, is to stay home and become more frustrated for not being where I need to be to fulfill my work.
And, staying home is one of the results of these policies – currently in place and proposed. Analysts from the location finder mobile app Foursquare stated that international travel to the USA is down up to 11 percent over the same period a year ago.
It also makes me wonder what other proposals would be implemented given the temper of this administration and its duty to protect this country and its citizens from all forms of terrorism – including domestic terrorists. Could they expand the laptop ban to domestic flights? Could they impose more on-road checkpoints within the interior of states – and the nation? Could they impose TSA checkpoints at rail and bus stations across the country? Or, could we see a rise in fuel prices and airfares beyond what we saw 10 years ago?
A lot of these thoughts are not based on anxiety and other emotional health issues. Rather, some of these are already implemented in other countries – or, have been historically. My concern would be to further upset the nature of this country through further fearmongering and additional government intervention upon the freedoms of citizens.
We love our freedom – foremost the freedom of movement. I understand the need to protect ourselves from politically motivated violence, but I also am concerned that this government is heading in the wrong direction to infringe on an individual's rights to free movement within and beyond this country.
As someone who writes about travel and integrates the experience of travel with the automobile, these concerns – current and potential – affects how I present these topics on this site and other outlets I work with. I hope my concerns are not met with reality. I urge the USA government to uphold our freedoms for the sake of our national security – not retard them. We all want to go somewhere to celebrate Independence Day.
Photo by Randy Stern