Little Yoshiro's Baseball Bat

Balint Vazsonyi

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 occasion.

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 National Airport.

Alas, I did not remove a mini bottle opener, measuring about an inch-and-a-half.

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 weapon."

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 taste.)

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 baseball bat.

And someone had to call him on it.