We used to handle things differently.

Two stories that caught my eye in recent days.

One on Salon points out what I have been thinking and saying for years: terrorism did not start on 9/11 of 2001. The “Ask the Aviator” column points out there were a number of deadly terrorist attacks on airlines in the 1980’s. I also remember one involving a cruise ship in the Mediterranean.

In the 1980s we did not overreact. We did not stage ill-fated invasions of distant countries. People did not cease traveling and the airline industry did not fall into chaos. We were lazy in enacting better security, perhaps, but as a country our psychological reaction, much to our credit, was calm, measured and not yet self-defeating.

This time, thanks to the wholly unhealthy changes in our national and cultural mind-set, I fear it will be different.

As an airline employee I worry greatly about this. If 2001 was any indication, we are doomed to overreaction that will ground planes and send Americans scurrying into their hidey-holes. Along with many thousands, or even millions, of others, I am liable to find myself once again unemployed. Unemployed not for any good or practical reason, but because we, as a nation, have grown weak and prone to panic.

To me, this is one legacy of Bush and the Republicans who use “threats” and “patriotism” as political themes. Just like the Vietnam war hawks back in the day, how they suggest people react to events in our world becomes a little divorced from the realities. We like to think that we are being tough now; but in fact, we were a lot tougher years ago. If not for the simple fact that we dealt with threats in proportion to the threat.

The second one was a report on a complaint issued by the U.S. National Labor Relations Board against a company who fired a worker for statements made by that worker on Facebook. This goes to our ever-eroding labor and first amendment rights.

We are becoming like a serf-nation that so many of our ancestors fled Europe from. I have my theories about this, everything from Southern Bourbonism and their conditional acceptance of the American Constitution to the influence of the Catholic Church and its past practices of silencing opposition (Galileo among the most famous). For some reason, people in management began to think that statements made about working conditions to other employees–or really, even to outside parties–were somehow a “threat” that merited harsh countermeasures. (If formalized in something like an EEO administrative charge, alternatively, something to stonewall and ignore, ehem . . .)

Under the Republicans, company managements were allowed to act like the Southern slaveholders of old—the people that Ulysses Grant didn’t bring enough hanging rope to Appomattox for. People b*tch about Obama not getting on the ball with the things Democratic supporters want. Well, here is at least one sign that the people in Washington “get it”. Speech about working conditions is of course an area of protected free speech. This was made very clear in the Roosevelt Administration, and frankly has been federal policy all along–even if ignored under Republican administrations.

Companies think nothing of sending a minion or two out to do a hit piece on someone who just points out facts. (Explain that one to me.) They get their socks all twisted out of shape when someone goes on Facebook and talks about the company.

America might be going down the drain, but for different reasons than what the Tea Party crowd says . . .

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