It’s what we do; there is almost nothing more American than over-reacting to a non-existent problem, throwing billions of dollars and man hours towards finding a solution that is meaningless since the problem never existed in the first place, and then claiming victory by eradicating and/or avoiding a catastrophe that was never going to occur in the first place. And then we immediately move on to the next imaginary crisis, while provably real human crises such as poorly cared for veterans, a national education system that literally ranks below Botswana, and a nation in 18 trillion dollars of debt spirals out of control.
Don’t make me list the litany of recent overreactions, please. It’s bad for my heart.
Ok, ok, just for premise purposes, the following is a list off the top of my head of things we were made to be terrified of recently, that were never going to be any sort of threat, but we made sure to do everything we could to avoid being victims of the non-existent danger:
- Bird Flu
- Swine Flu
- West Nile Virus Outbreak
- A tsunami hitting San Francisco following the Japanese earthquake
- Radiation poisoning from the Japanese nuclear reactor coming to America
- Ebola in America
- Any storm lately (this one is the most appalling of them all. We now literally, pre-emptively shut down portions of the nation over predicted weather events which never wind up coming to pass. Our ancestors must be so proud).
Nothing on that list includes the “end-is-near,” nuttiness that has, admittedly, existed since the dawn of time emanating from crackpots predicting that the world will end as a result of a calendar reaching its completion or a prophet reigning hell-fire upon the earth. That’s the problem with today; we use to dismiss these asinine fear-based hysterics as products of cuckoo-ville. Now we elect the crackpots and give them the power, control and money to scare the bejesus out of everyone by solving things that don’t need to be solved.
The latest absurdity surprised even me; last week, a German pilot intentionally crashed the commercial airliner he was flying into the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board. A terrifying event, no doubt. I figured that since it happened abroad, America would ignore it as we usually do in our very xenophobic way. I underestimated our penchant for the paranoid, however. Within hours of the news that the audio black box had revealed that the co-pilot of the plane had locked the captain out of the cockpit (a delicious irony caused directly by our stupid, poorly thought out over-reaction to 9/11) so that he could intentionally crash the plane, Social media and what used to be the legitimate American media (now masquerading only as right and left wing nuthouses), began asking the questions that never needed to be asked:
- Could this happen in America?
- What kind of screening do pilots get before taking off with hundreds of lives in their hands?
- How could this have been prevented?
- What must we do, how fast can we do it, and how much must we spend to make sure this never happens again?
- Insert hysterical scream, hair on fire, running around in circles…here.
To review, a German pilot intentionally crashed the commercial jet he was flying into a mountain and killed everyone on board, and our reaction was to demand changes in the American skies. Allow me to bore you with facts, logic and common sense:
There has NEVER, in the history of aviation in America been a documented case of a commercial airline pilot doing such a thing; this, despite an average of 30,000 flights taking off and landing daily within the United States for the past thirty years.
Since 1976, in the entire world, there have been eight (8) cases of a pilot deliberately crashing a commercial airliner resulting in a grand total of 599 fatalities. And the truth is that’s a bogus list to begin with, because in two of those cases the pilot crashed an empty plane. There have really only been THREE such notable instances in the last 40 years in the entire world (Silk Air 1997, Egypt Air 1999 and Germanwings 2015), on a globe which sees more than 100,000 airplanes take-off and land safely each day on average. http://news.aviation-safety.net/2013/12/22/list-of-aircraft-accidents-caused-by-pilot-suicide/
Despite the infinitesimal rate of occurrence, having nothing to do with American airspace, Americans have spent the last 5 days screaming “something must be done.”
And so it has begun. We have taken one of the safest, most heroic, most responsible professions in our nation’s history and in less than a week, we have turned the ugly microscope of American pre-judgment directly onto our pilots, making them guilty until proven innocent. Bear in mind, that more than 90% of our pilots come almost directly from our armed services. Thanks for your service, guys, here’s a kick in the nuts for you that you never deserved.
When news broke that the FAA basically relies on the self-reporting of American pilots when it comes to their mental health, the outcry was loud and fierce. When endless mental health professionals revealed that there really is no such thing as mental health test, the screaming got louder and louder. And then on Sunday morning, when it was revealed that the Germanwings pilot was taking anti-depressants, the morning talk shows filled with people demanding that any pilot doing such was unfit to fly…in a nation where an average of 50 million people (including a few pilots, I’m going to guess) take anti-depressants to allow them to function throughout the day, we are now going to scarlet letter them despite their near perfect performance in the field of aviation. Makes perfect sense to me, after all, this is America, and this is what we do.
And so, we will figure out a way to subject our pilots to some sort of mental wellness check and additional screening and more invasive observation and no doubt, paranoia on the part of ninnies who will begin reporting to the flight attendant that the pilot “seemed agitated,” as the passenger walked onto the plane and so on and so on. More and more pilots will be made to feel like criminals just because they had a bad day, take Prozac or are going through a tough time in their life and, as a result, more and more of them will do everything they can to hide their problems and challenges, lest they fear not being allowed to fly, their one true passion in life. But hey, we’ll feel safer from a threat that never existed!
And then, once we land safely at our destinations (as we always do), we’ll get behind the wheel of our car and join the roads filled with people who haven’t been tested on their ability to drive in years (I haven’t since 1999, for example) and who account, collectively, for an average of 30,000 deaths in America every year. Millions of people driving in America are taking legally prescribed drugs and many have mental problems, yet they’re never asked about them before getting in their car. Why is that? Privacy? Privacy has no place when it comes to public safety, we’ve been told for years.
So as you all scream for safety in the skies (which is already here) don’t scream at me when safety is demanded in your car and your home and your life. We justify needless actions on pilots because “they have other peoples’ lives in their hands.” Nothing is more true than anyone behind the wheel of a car. Just because one driver can only kill 2, 3, or maybe 5 people at a time doesn’t justify doing nothing when thousands of us are killing thousands more. After all, we’re all one big village and in this giant community known as America, we account for 30,000 dead people a year by driving. If we’re going to impugn an entire profession with a history of nothing short of stellar performance, then we must, and will, impugn the rest of us. We killed 30,000 people on the roads last year. American pilots killed zero. In America, we attack those doing everything right, because so few of us are; yet another proud moment in the modern history of the United States.