Little Yoshiro's Baseball Bat
This is the story of little Yoshiro's baseball bat, even though
the person in question is known as Norman Y. Mineta, currently Secretary
of Transportation. His middle name, Yoshiro, is likely that of an
honorable ancestor, to be treated with respect. If you bear with
me, it will become obvious why its use seemed appropriate on this
Increasingly, Americans have been irritated, annoyed, angered -
most of all mystified by the phenomenon of confiscations at our
nation's airport. While no sane person would wish for anything less
than total security in the skies, common sense informs most of us
about what does and what does not constitute a risk. Yet "security"
personnel routinely confiscates items of no consequence, as well
as those properly documented and thoroughly explained by the bearer.
My own story concerned a toiletry case with standard attachments
in its side pocket - nail clippers, scissors, razor, corkscrew -
all of which I had carefully removed before showing up at Reagan
Alas, I did not remove a mini bottle opener, measuring about an
The alarms went off, and I was directed to a woman whose beginning
English class is scheduled for 2004. Eventually, she motioned a
supervisor, and the two agreed on confiscation. Although between
them they seemed to share an IQ pool of 49, it was clear they had
both the instructions and the authority to do so.
CBS-TV to the rescue.
On August 11, "60 Minutes" rebroadcast an interview with
Secretary Mineta on the topic of airport security. Upon learning
of his stubborn refusal to consider young Arab males a greater potential
risk than 80 year-old grandmothers from Vero Beach, Steve Kroft
speculated about the effect of the internment camps on Japanese-Americans
after Pearl Harbor.
Mineta: "I was 11 when I first went in."
Kroft: "What do you remember about that experience?"
Mineta: "...I was in my Cub Scout uniform carrying a baseball,
baseball glove and a baseball bat. And as I boarded the train, the
MPs confiscated the bat on the basis it could be used as a lethal
We need not get a reading from Sigmund Freud himself to figure
out that Americans are paying every minute of every hour of every
day for that baseball bat.
In cases of normal brain function and healthy psyche, the years
of growing older serve to broaden a person's knowledge and understanding
of the universe. In this instance, Mr. Mineta would have gradually
learned of the fate of other children of 11 around the world in
1942 and beyond. Eventually, he would have learned about the fate
of tens of millions - including the unmatched cruelty of the Japanese
toward Americans, Chinese and Koreans - placing the loss of his
bat in perspective. That he would bring it up past the age of 70,
having been royally compensated, and having risen to dizzying heights
of national prominence, reveals a chronic pathology.
(That he brought it up in an interview whose topic was the response
to the horrible death of over 3,000 Americans also shows appalling
Under ordinary circumstances, one would feel nothing but sympathy
for a man still haunted by an event that occurred a full 60 years
ago. But the appropriate place for the sufferer is the psychiatrist's
couch. Instead, Mr. Mineta has been given the opportunity to transform
our airports into places where Americans are abused beyond endurance
- and to no other purpose than to feed his pathology. No one believes
any more that the procedures have a bearing on airline security.
As well as domestic tranquility, the future of our airlines is
now also at stake. As we watch one after another declare bankruptcy,
we have to wonder how much the intolerable abuse preceding each
and every flight has to do with the general malaise of the industry.
I am not aware of another instance in the history of the United
States when the citizenry would have been delivered to the mercy
of a man clearly impaired in more than one way.
I am fully aware that Americans dislike attacks on a person, and
that people who know what's good for them had better not make a
habit of insulting members of the president's cabinet.
But the foregoing represents neither an attack nor an insult. On
the contrary, it is Secretary Norman Mineta who continues to extract
revenge from the American people for the loss of little Yashiro's
And someone had to call him on it.