Retroacting

In light of yesterday’s massacre in Aurora, Colorado, every media talking head, politician and self-proclaimed expert on psychosis is speaking out.  Folks from CNN and MSNBC rushed to the scene yesterday morning, hoping to corral anyone who was within a mile of the theatre and ask, ‘What did you see?’  Even Nancy Grace – who normally doesn’t care unless an adult White female goes missing or turns up dead – jumped into the fray, so you know this shit is serious.

Meanwhile, idiot extremists on both sides of the gun control debate are already lining up to take – pardon the verbiage – shots at one another.  Gun control advocates say this is once again proof that firearms are too easily accessible in the U.S.  Gun rights supporters – who always seem to think the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution trumps the 1st Amendment – claim that guns don’t kill, people do.  In a way, they’re both right.  I’ll let them engage in their usual vitriolic tangos.

But, I have to wonder; are we now going to have metal detectors in movie theatres?  If we do, it’s yet another example of how the U.S. seems to behave retroactively to whatever crisis of the decade pops up.  Our elected officials and law enforcement don’t always have the foresight to cogitate ahead.  That’s what happens when they’re more concerned with election year politics and budget restraints.

Here are just a few examples of after-the-fact-responses.

In the fall of 1982, seven people in Chicago died after consuming cyanide-laced Tylenol.  The manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, pulled every single Tylenol product off store shelves across the country and almost went bankrupt because of it.  But, they bounced back with an aggressive marketing campaign and reintroducing their products with safety seals.  Other manufacturers followed suit.  I’m old enough to remember when you could buy something and just open it up without worrying if it was a death sentence.  Now, you occasionally have to have pugilistic hands to open a bottle cap.

On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh parked a moving truck outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.  A few minutes later, the truck exploded and almost completely destroyed the building; killing 168 people.  Now, you can’t just drive into a building; federal or otherwise.  You have to approach a guard post where they check your identification and confirm that you’re really supposed to be there.  You also can’t park outside any building for too long, especially in major cities, unless you want a cop or overweight security guard giving you dirty looks first, before asking what the hell you’re doing.

Law enforcement never took animal abuse seriously until psychologists made the connection between that and serial killers.  Now, anyone caught chaining a dog to a tree is threatened with jail time.

School boards always thought bullying was just kids-being-kids crap until the victims started committing suicide – or homicide.  The 1999 Columbine massacre sort of drove that message home.  So, schools started bullying intervention programs and installed metal detectors.

The best case scenario for an after-the-fact-response is September 11, 2001.  Who would have thought someone would use jet liners as weapons of mass destruction?  Actually, someone had made a concerted effort several years earlier.  In February 1974, Samuel Byck tried to hijack a Delta Airlines plane from Baltimore and crash it into the White House.  He wasn’t really a terrorist; he was a failed businessman with a seething hatred for Richard Nixon and a suicidal death wish.  He was shot to death after a brief standoff with police.  The incident received minimal press coverage because the growing Watergate mess had everyone’s attention.  And, it got lost in the historical shuffle – until 09/11.

For one thing, immigration never thought that people with expired VISAs could pose a threat.  People with past-due VISA bills always got harassed half to death by the banks however.  So, the airlines starting checking people’s identifications more closely.  Then, they started thinking that pilots should be armed and cockpit doors should be fortified with more than duct tape.  Even flight attendants started wondering if they had to start carrying nunchucks instead of extra bags of peanuts.  U.S. airlines could have taken a queue from Israel, which hasn’t experienced a hijacking since 1970.  Their airline pilots are armed and their flight attendants are trained to fight back with whatever they have.  But, over here, airline executives complained such changes wouldn’t be cost-effective, meaning they’d have to take a cut in their million-dollar paychecks.  So, the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) is content with confiscating bottles of Evian and fondling people in wheelchairs.

In December 2001, Richard Reed tried to set his shoes on fire, while aboard a flight from Paris to Miami.  Now, everyone has to take off their shoes.

In December 2009, Abdul Farouk Umar Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian-born Al-Qaeda operative, tried to set his explosive-underwear on fire on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.  The stuff didn’t ignite, but fellow passengers tackled him anyway, as the plane approached the airport.  People feared they’d now have to tolerate underwear checks, but the TSA amazingly drew the line at that.

So, I ask again – will theatres begin installing metal detectors beside the ticket windows?  All day Friday and into Saturday, theatres around the country employed extra security measures to ward off any copycat incidents – another uniquely American aberration.  Here’s another question – when will we stop reacting to these events and start thinking ahead to the possibility of stuff happening?  It’s not beyond the scope of reality or human intelligence.  It happens all the time in business and science – people think of what could be and what could happen.  Then, they act on it.  It’s not a crystal ball type of mentality.  It’s just being practical.

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