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Opinion: There But For The Grace Of God . . . Go So Many Of Us
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 20, 2005

SPOKANE, WASHINGTON-- When I learned that the "suspected terrorist" killed by federal air marshals in Miami was actually an American with bipolar disorder, my first thought was that this could easily happen to a number of people I know, including myself, under the right set of circumstances.

But then I wondered if any of us have believed that this kind of thing would not happen at some point. Perhaps it was a matter of not "if", but "when".

Historically speaking, it's always been dangerous -- or fatal -- to act in "unusual" or "puzzling" ways. Every week, it seems, we see another example of someone's life being extinguished, either by law enforcement or caregivers, because they did not -- or could not -- follow someone else's instructions.

The difference now is that this is in the national spotlight, and homeland security appears to be a justification for "shoot first and ask questions later" on jetliners.

Air travel by itself makes many people anxious. The events of 9/11 made that worse, as we realized the actions of those flying with us can literally determine whether we live or die.

Passengers aboard Flight 924 said that, after Rigoberto Alpizar ran through the plane toward first class, his wife of 20 years, Anne Buechner, followed, yelling that he had a mental illness and had not taken his medication.

It did no good. Federal marshals have been trained to deal with people behaving like Alpizar as a threat.

Many experts and others claim that the officers would have been criticized worse had Alpizar been a true bomber, and had his wife been a co-conspirator attempting to identify and distract the air marshals.

After her husband's death, she said she blamed herself for allowing him on the aircraft in his agitated state.

Now, air travel with someone who seems anxious, or "out of control", will no doubt appear more dangerous, and in fact will likely be more dangerous because of the reaction of passengers, including federal air marshals.

Unfortunately, anyone acting "suspiciously" may be feared nearly as much as would-be hijackers.

This may be the best time to redouble our efforts to explain to others that the vast majority of people who experience mental illness or psychiatric crises are not a threat to anyone, but that they are more likely to be victimized by others.

May Peace be with you and yours this season. -- Dave Reynolds, Editor

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