Sunday, July 29, 2007

Getting Serious

Michelle Ku, a reporter with the Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader has written an article that may interest you. The specifics might not interest you but what the article demonstrates should. This is how the good old U.S. of A is supposed to work. Well, it’s almost how it’s supposed to work. It’s still refreshing to see. It’s been awhile.

You see, the article is actually about a subject that the majority of the masses won’t read. It deals with an important subject (aviation safety) in a manner that is sadly lacking in today’s media -- with fairness and a willingness to tackle the complexity of the issue.

”Common abbreviations such as TWY, RWY and UFN (taxiway, runway, and until further notice) are easy to understand. Others such as DCMSND, HAA and MALSR (decommissioned, height above airport and medium intensity approach light system with runway alignment indicator lights) are not.

"It assumes that everybody knows the acronyms, and generally the pilots do," said Paul Czysz, a retired aeronautics professor at St. Louis University. "But if you haven't seen an acronym for a month or two, it doesn't register all the time."”

While this issue (aviation safety) -- in of itself -- is important, I want to highlight the bigger issue. The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees a Free Press. As Thomas Jefferson pointed out in so many ways, a well-informed electorate is necessary for a democracy to survive. A Free Press is one that informs the electorate. It is their function to cover and highlight the stories that you -- The People -- don’t have have the time and/or technical expertise to find. In short, freedom of the press was designed to ensure that the electorate was “well informed.” Informed citizens make informed decisions about how they govern themselves.

I applaud Ms. Ku and the Lexington Herald-Leader for doing their part and doing it well. My praise is tempered though. It is tempered by the knowledge of why they have suddenly “found religion.” A planeload of people -- 49 people -- had to die before we woke up. And I do mean “we.”

It isn’t the Lexington Herald-Leader’s job to ensure air safety anymore than it is yours. But it is yours and theirs. You are a citizen and it is still “We the People...” The Lexington Herald-Leader is part of the Free Press. We -- collectively -- do have a duty to fulfill. The fact that it is a shared responsibility cannot excuse us from our duty. I submit that if you are responsible enough and intelligent enough to have read this far -- you have an even greater duty to this country. Your less-informed fellow citizens look to you for help and advice in deciding the course of this country. To whom much is given, much is expected.

As important as aviation safety is -- as passionate as I am about it -- it does not approach the significance of many other issues we, as U.S. citizens, face. We have invaded Iraq and made a mess of it. We were poorly informed (if not downright misled) by our government. The Press did not completely fail to fulfill it’s role and inform the electorate prior to this momentous decision but much of it did. Much too much of it. The national press is now trying to catch up to the issue just as the Kentucky press is now trying to catch up to the issue of air safety.

One accident and 49 people paid with their lives. One war and 3,500+ soldiers have paid with their lives. We can’t afford to play “catch up” too often. The United States is the most powerful nation the world has ever known. We cannot afford to be (or even perceived to be) a loose cannon in the world. “We the People of the United Statesmust form a more perfect Union. The world will demand it.

For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

Don Brown
July 29, 2007

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