The family was going through security when two TSA agents singled Drew Mandy out for a special pat down. Drew is severely mentally disabled. He’s 29, but his parents said he has the mental capacity of a two-year-old, which made the experience that followed at metro Detroit’s McNamera Terminal that much harder to deal with.
“You have got to be kidding me. I honestly felt that those two agents did not know what they were doing,” Mandy told us.
Dr. Mandy claimed they asked Drew to place his feet on the yellow shoe line, something he didn’t understand. They proceeded to pat his pants down, questioning the padding which was his adult diapers. When the agents asked Drew to take his hand and rub the front and back of his pants so they could swab it for explosives, his dad stepped in and tried to explain that Drew was mentally challenged.
“They said, ‘Please, sir, we know what we’re doing,'” Mandy said.
The TSA agents saw Drew holding a six-inch plastic hammer.
“My son carries his ball and his hammer for security. He goes everywhere with (them),” said Mandy.
The TSA it seems saw the toy as a weapon.
“He took the hammer and he tapped the wall. ‘See, it’s hard. It could be used as a weapon,'” Mandy explained.
So the TSA took the toy hammer away. Because they’re assholes.
A little over four years ago, a gunman entered a building on the Virginia Tech campus and started shooting. By the time it was over, he had killed 32 people. After the fact, a lot of pundits said stupid things (e.g. blaming it on video games or the gays), but probably the worst comment was from John Derbyshire:
As NRO’s designated chickenhawk, let me be the one to ask: Where was the spirit of self-defense here? Setting aside the ludicrous campus ban on licensed conceals, why didn’t anyone rush the guy? It’s not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness’ sake-one of them reportedly a .22. At the very least, count the shots and jump him reloading or changing hands. Better yet, just jump him. Handguns aren’t very accurate, even at close range. I shoot mine all the time at the range, and I still can’t hit squat. I doubt this guy was any better than I am. And even if hit, a .22 needs to find something important to do real damage-your chances aren’t bad.
At the time, I went into a great bit of detail about why this kind of thinking is wrong-headed, but it basically boils down to the fact that people in general aren’t very good at responding to unusual situations under stress.
About a year later, a bunch of pundits got upset about a 78-year-old man who was supposedly hit by a car and left lying in the street as people walked by. It was apparently a great opportunity to decry the moral poverty of our society, and again I explained why they were overreacting.
I can’t say for sure why people at the scene did what they did, but I think we should cut them some slack for the inability of this crowd of strangers to quickly organize a response to an unusual and frightening situation.
Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much time wrangling computers for busy executives, university professors, and engineers, but I’m not surprised or disappointed when very smart people have trouble figuring out what to do in novel and complex situations. And I’ve done enough reading about how people respond to crises to know that stress only makes it worse.
Now some people are criticising Dr. Mandy for his handling of the TSA agents who mistreated his mentally disabled son:
Whether it’s the parent of a mentally challenged young man, or the mother of a baby, at what point does a parent decide not to back away and acquiesce in the abuse of their child? Apparently, the tipping point is when told to do so by anyone wearing the uniform of a government agent.
No doubt Dr. Mandy, an osteopath specializing in pediatrics per a quick search, has spent a good part of his life helping his son to enjoy life as best possible. He likely a wonderful, caring father who has shown love and devotion to Drew, and that’s great.
But some parents would rather take a bullet between their eyes than allow anyone to do harm to their child. This situation hadn’t escalated to the point where bullets were in the offing, and yet Dr. Mandy complied with the instructions of his TSA handlers. Was there something about them to suggest they really did know what they were doing? It’s hard to believe.
So why did he just back off and let the TSA do as they pleased? Where is the outrage? Where is the will to tell the blue-shirted monkeys that they don’t have the first clue what they’re doing, that they are doing pointless harm to your child and that you are not going to be compliant sheep?
First of all, Dr. Mandy’s a mature, accomplished individual. He’s wealthy and white. This sort of treatment is probably a bit unusual, and he wasn’t prepared for it.
Second, beyond explaining his son’s problems to them, what would arguing have accomplished? Yelling at people always feels good, but could he have changed the TSA goon’s mind? Gotten him to stop annoying his son? I doubt it.
Third, those TSA people are sort-of cops, but they’re the worst kind of cops: A cop with very little power except for one specific area. That you happen to be in. Anyone who’s run into a self-important mall cop knows what I mean. Escalating the situation could lead to the family being separated for questioning. Worse, if the father got himself arrested, Drew could have been tossed into some sort of state welfare system until he got out. (Or, since we’re talking about the TSA, he could have been left to wander the airport, which might actually be safer.)
Years ago, I read a story by a tough-sounding criminal defense lawyer who got stopped on the highway by a cop who wanted to search the car. He knew he didn’t have to let him, but he let the cop do the search anyway because the cost of a confrontation would be too high. You see, the lawyer had his dog in the car. If he got arrested, he was afraid of what would happen to his dog while he was locked up. How much more concerned do you suppose Dr. Mandy was for his son?
I’ve told my children that my love for them is such that I would jump in front of speeding bullet to protect them. There have been moments when I’m put to the test, fortunately not a speeding bullet but a time when I am faced with the decision to either stand up and protect them at my own risk, or snivel and justify why I backed away. I’ve made my choice. How any parent could back down is unfathomable to me.
Eh, the TSA goons were annoying his son, and they took away one of his toys. Maybe his father should have put on a symbolic show of resistance, but he only had a few seconds to make up his mind, and this is what he did.
And then he got the TSA to apologize and change their training, and the whole stupid incident was turned into a three-minute news segment that’s getting attention all over the internet. It’s quite possible that mentally challenged air passengers will be treated better as a result. It’s not exactly a bad result.