I long ago came to the conclusion that we have become way too safety conscious. Between airport security, not letting our children into the water at the local lake even when they're practically old enough to fly an airplane, wearing (or even requiring) helmets for everything, people freaking out if you have a camera with you taking photos of ducks at the lake (they're frightened you're a child predator)--this world has just become annoyingly worried about everything.
In a real eye-opening clip from 19991, before 9-11 paranoia hit, George Carlin did a great bit on excessive airline security and excessive fear in general. (Warning, the clip has explicit language, I'd rather it didn't.) He talks about how over-the-top we've become with security and how we're willing to trade liberty for security--this was before 9-11. I disagree with George Carlin about a lot of things, and his tone is definitely vulgar--but he really hit the nail on the head with this one. I find it applies even more now, in 2009, than it did 10 years ago in 1999 when it was recorded. This blog poster2 also thinks that airport security is over-the-top.
Call me a jerk, but I have no desire or intent to be "understanding" about the long lines and overzealous measures they engage in nowadays. That's not to say I will make a scene, but I reserve to right to grumble about it, and when I do, I have no interests in your rebuttal of "they're doing their job, shut up and quit whining" or "they're trying to keep your worthless behind from being hurt, you should be thankful." I appreciate security, but that doesn't mean something over-the-top doesn't deserve criticism. I'm just glad I hardly ever fly to begin with.
It isn't just airport security that we have turned into a nation of wussies. Just look at the parents at your local swimming lake. I have, and let me tell you--if I were the children of some of these parents, I'd run away. I have seen and heard of accounts of 9-year olds--yes, 9-year olds--not being allowed in the lake at all by their overprotective parents, not even the very edge of the water, not even when it's a public pool and lifeguards are present. I have seen parents not let their children play outside if there are any mosquitoes at all. I'm not talking about being in a swamp or somewhere where there are hundreds of them, but even in the city where maybe 1 or 2 have been spotted. Gee whiz, how many mosquito bites did I & my contemporaries used to get as children, from all that playing in the woods, none of us ever got a disease.
I have even seen parents yell at their children to "stop running." Was this poolside? No. It was in the park. Yes, the park! If you can't run in the park, where and when can you run?
I recall playing in the woods outdoors for hours at a time, I was probably 8 years of age or older. In fact, I was forbidden from coming in the house for a good 2 hours or so--that let my parents have some sanity, and let me have some childhood adventures without excessive oversight. How many parents do you know that allow this now? They're too worried about predators, mosquitos, snakes, imaginary serial killers, the list goes on.
I encounter this, also, when I take my camera to the lake and take photographs of the ducks on the lake--such a photo of mine turned out so good, I enlarged it 16x20 (you can go here 3 to see it). Time and time again I encounter people, apparently scared I'm John Wayne Gacy4 or something, screaming at me "don't be taking photos of my children." Now, besides the fact that it's legal to take photos of children or anyone else in public--yes, that is correct, it is perfectly legal and they have no legal footing whatsoever--but besides that, it's highly irritating and my reply tends to go like this: "don't worry, I only take photos of things that actually LOOK GOOD."
All this over-worrying that people do nowadays, I call this the "Dateline NBC", "20/20" and "America's Most Wanted" phenomenon. People watch these shows all the time. Just try watching any of those shows yourself for more than 5 minutes, and I promise you'll be so frightened at the world around you that you'll be motivated to construct a bomb shelter, go out and get a lifetime supply of pork & beans and battery-operated appliances and NEVER come out the rest of your life. We've allowed them to brainwash us with the notion that the world is so crazy you can't dare adventure any.
Yes, I know, I know, it's a different world since 9-11. I for one think that refrain is the most overused and overdone sentiment of all, and it's gone way overboard. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate efforts to protect me and my loved-ones from another attack, and I understand that we are fighting terrorism. I am NOT one of those that screamed "war for oil" during the Iraq conflict of 2003. I didn't think that then nor do I think that now.
But even with that understanding, I think it's possible to take things too far, and if it leads to us never again being able to just enjoy life and have fun, then the terrorists have accomplished the very thing they set out to do, and you might as well declare us dead as a nation.
I think that people need to relax and take it easy. Just because 9-11 happened doesn't mean we need to throw all fun to the wind and worry so much about everything. Yes let's be careful and let's take reasonable measures, and by all means any reasonable parent doesn't want their children to get hurt--but sometimes you can go too far and worry too much. You get ulcers that way. Besides being a child out to be fun, let's stop taking all the fun out of being a child. Life is too serious as it is.
1 George Carlin "You are All Diseased", 1999. Start around 1:20 to hear relevant portions (warning, explicit language)
2 Fixing Airport Security, Bruce Schneier, 06-24-2009
3Duck, Lake Gladewater, from my PBase.Com photos website
4Wikipedia Entry for John Wayne Gacy, a serial killer