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What Do Exploding Sneakers Have to Do with Mask Mandates?

What Do Exploding Sneakers Have to Do with Mask Mandates? December 3, 2020

Over the past six months, many Republican governors have made a show of refusing to mandate the wearing of face masks, in the middle of a raging pandemic. This despite the fact that ample evidence has shown that face masks work. These governors and their supporters talk about freedom and choice.

In that context, this tweet makes an excellent point:

“It’s germane to recall that Republicans were the ones who mandated that we all have to take our shoes off at the airport because 19 years ago *one guy* tried — and failed — to ignite his exploding sneaker,” Salon’s Bob Cesca writes. And he’s right. That happened. TSA screening presents a massive inconvenience every time we go to the airport, all because of a few isolated incidences of malfeasance—malfeasance that either caused no harm due to successful intervention, or that resulted in far fewer deaths than the COVID-19 pandemic.

3,000 people died on 9/11, and Congress completely upturned airport security—and Republicans led the charge! To date, nearly 300,000 people have died in the COVID-19 pandemic, and Republicans dither and talk about people’s freedoms—and personal choice!

My family didn’t use airplanes very much when I was a child, but I have several very vivid memories of going to the airport to see my father off on business, or some other trip, or to pick him up. We would go with him to the gate, and sit and watch the airplanes take off and land. There was some sort of metal detector at the entrance to the airport, but nothing that took too long—and anyone was allowed to go all the way to the gate, even without a ticket.

After 9/11, the government took away our right to do any of this.

Today, airport security is a massive headache that can take forever to get through. It’s not just taking off your shoes—it’s measuring your liquids and making sure everything is bagged properly. And if you don’t get to the airport at least two hours before your flight, good luck making it to the airplane on time! Twenty years ago, you could get to the airport 20 minutes before the gate closed and still make it on time. Not so today!

There’s no taking someone all the way to the gate, either. This can actually create a lot of convenience, particularly for people whose children are flying alone—where children could be taken all the way to the gate, and picked at the gate on arrival, none of that is allowed. Now, children and teens have to either navigate the airport alone, or their parents have to pay to have an airport employee escort them on each side.

We gave up a massive amount of convenience to prevent another 9/11.

Mind you, I’m not necessarily saying that it’s wrong that we gave up all that convenience. I’m just noting that I don’t have the freedom to take my tween to the gate, or the personal choice to keep my shoes on or take my regular bottle of shampoo. And Republican lawmakers were okay with all of this—more than okay!

Roughly the same number of people who died on 9/11 died of COVID-19 yesterday. And yet, many states with Republican governors have still refused to mandate masks, or sufficiently limit gatherings.

As Cesca goes on to note, it’s the hypocrisy that’s jarring.

Whether someone dies in a terror attack or in a deadly pandemic, they’re still dead. And if the first is worth curtailing people’s freedoms and upending their day-to-day lives to prevent, the second should be also.

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