Tuesday, July 5, 2016

TSA knocks the hell out of girl with cancer... Facebook row ensues

Those of you who regularly read this blog may wonder what yesterday's fairy tale post was all about. Basically, it was about an article I read the other day and dared to post on my Facebook.  On June 30th, 2015, 18 year old Hannah Cohen and her mother, Shirley, were on their way home to Chattanooga, Tennessee from Memphis.  They were in Memphis because Hannah has been a long term cancer patient and had been at St. Jude's Children's Hospital getting brain surgery.  She and her mother had made the trip for seventeen years and this was to be their last journey to Memphis for treatment.  They should have been jubilant.

Unfortunately, as Hannah was passing through security at the Memphis airport, she set off the alarms.  Because she's blind in one eye, deaf in one ear, and partially paralyzed, Hannah gets confused easily.  Adding insult to injury was the fact that her mother's broken foot was in an immobilization boot.  She evidently wasn't able to talk to the TSA agents to explain that her daughter had disabilities or, if she did, they weren't inclined to listen. 

So, when the alarms went off and the TSA agents wanted to check Hannah over, Hannah got frightened and upset and tried to pull away.  A voice over public address system requested backup and a bunch of armed guards showed up.  Hannah ended up being slammed to the floor .  Shirley got a picture of her crying, bloody daughter being put in handcuffs just before she was taken to a jail cell for the night.

The next morning, Hannah and her mother appeared in court and the charges were dropped.  They were also refunded the $250 they paid for costs.  Now, Hannah and her mother are suing the TSA, asking $100,000 plus costs.  Honestly, I think they have every right to sue and I hope they win.

I posted about this on Facebook and most of my friends were horrified at Hannah's ordeal.  Granted, the TSA had no way of knowing ahead of time about Hannah's issues.  Hannah and her mother had taken the trip to Memphis many times with no incident, so Shirley had not called ahead to warn them about her daughter's medical problems.  Of course, because they had done the trip so many times, it's understandable that they wouldn't call ahead.  Why would they if there had never been an incident in the past?

One former friend took issue with Hannah's story and claimed that the TSA had every right to rough her up.  She reasoned that Hannah could have been dangerous or a terrorist.  I can agree that there is some merit to that argument, although it seems to me that if the TSA had taken a minute to speak to Shirley, they would have gotten a better picture of what was going on.  Moreover, I see no reason whatsoever why Hannah had to end up as badly beaten as she was.  Even if she had been "dangerous" in some way, there's no reason why the officials had to hurt her.  There are certainly non-violent ways to take someone down.  Just ask the Swedish cops who were vacationing in America how they managed to do it on a subway.

Anyway, due to the former friend's penchant for arguing incessantly and not knowing when it's time to move on, a nine hour Facebook debate ensued involving a number of my other friends.  I eventually determined that the discussion was tiresome and pointless, so I asked my former friend to take the argument elsewhere.  She got pissed off and accused me of "baiting people" with the news articles I post on Facebook.  She said that if I didn't want to argue incessantly with my friends, I should stop posting about controversy.  She also called me out for writing about the people I run into on Facebook.  I suppose I should warn people who interact with me that I'm easily inspired.  If you inspire me to write by acting like a shit, then don't be surprised if you get blogged about.  People have probably blogged about me somewhere, but I don't go looking for it.  What they think of me is none of my business.

Here's my take.  It's my Facebook page.  I post whatever I want to on it.  I am usually pretty open to debates, but when they start getting nasty or become unproductive, I reserve the right to ask people to stop arguing.  Most of my friends are respectful enough to know when an argument is not going to get resolved and they respect my request.  This former friend apparently isn't mature enough to do that, so I ended up having to block her.  I am definitely not the first one to do so.  She's been blocked by a number of people and kicked out of several Facebook groups.

Moreover, while I do often post about controversial topics, it's not my intent to "bait" people.  I don't wake up in the morning and think, "I think I'll post about some hot topic so there'll be a debate on my Facebook page or my blog."  When I posted about Hannah Cohen, I truly had no idea it would erupt into a huge online nine hour row on my Facebook page.  It seems like the most unlikely posts turn into debates, but I guess that's the nature of the Internet.

To me, it's pretty obvious that the TSA went way overboard in the way they handled Hannah Cohen.  I understand that they have a difficult and potentially dangerous job, but I don't see any reason why a woman in Hannah's condition should end up with blood streaming down her face.  There were certainly more TSA agents than there were Hannahs; they should have been able to subdue her without injuring her.

What really bothers me about this case and why I was so vehemently defending Hannah and her mom is that if this happened to Hannah, it could happen to me or someone else I care about.  This woman was absolutely no threat to the TSA, yet she ended up beaten, handcuffed, and put in jail for the night.  The situation never should have escalated to that level.  If it happened to Hannah, it could happen to other people.  The TSA absolutely should be held accountable for that and citizens should certainly have a remedy for when they are abused by officials.  No amount of arguing or haranguing is going to change my mind about that, so a nine hour debate on my personal Facebook page accomplishes nothing.

Now, had I posted that article in a public group, I might feel differently about my right to shut down discussion.  In that case, yes, people should have the right to discuss for as long as the moderator feels it's appropriate.  But not on a personal Facebook page.  A personal Facebook page isn't "public domain".

Anyway, I guess some people think I'm an asshole for not wanting to host endless vitriolic discussions on my Facebook page.  That's fine.  Plenty of people think I'm an asshole.  Have at it.  Just discuss it somewhere other than on my Facebook page.  I don't have to host an all night party for people on my friends list.

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