When People are in Power
Have you been on a flight lately?
Even if you have not flown recently the news media has been carrying detailed reports regarding the most recent developments of beefed up security measures at the airports across the United States.
The developments are that any security agent has the discretionary right to select an unsuspecting traveler at random, and subject him or her to a more scrutinized and analyzed security check. This is done by leading the passenger to an X-ray machine that takes a picture of his or her entire body. The passenger who refuses to be X-rayed is subjected to a shameful, invasive pat down. These procedures have left many of the country's citizens with considerable negative feelings.
Almost every human being is in a position of power and controlIn truth, security measures are an unfortunate development produced by our times. Evil would love nothing more than to cause widespread harm, torture and death to common men, women and children. Cracking down on these people in order to protect the rest of society is absolutely necessary.
I have experienced this security process first hand over the past few weeks, having flown several times in and out of Atlanta.
My very first experience was at an airport in Florida, returning to Atlanta. I was asked to empty my pockets of all their contents, sending those objects through the regular screening. They did return my money to me after I had been X-rayed, which I duly returned to my pocket.
One of the security agents began screaming at me to take out what I had placed in my pocket. I just looked at him trying to understand what he meant. And so he yelled a second time, "Take that out of your pocket immediately!"
I did what I was told. I held the cash for another ten seconds, and then, when all my objects were returned, I placed them and the money back into my pockets.
I commented to the security agent: "You seem like a gentle and sweet soul, who is quick to laugh and wants to please. Does talking this way make you feel good?"
My point was, of course, to express to this pitiful person that yelling and intimidating people is precisely what portrays this experience in a negative light.
Almost every human being is in a position of power and control. From bosses and security agents, to parents, teachers and even to drivers of vehicles, everyone wields some form of power. Power, though, is not there in order to demean others by being rude, mean or offensive.
All decent people realize that their position of power and control is simply there to lead others in the right direction. When a gift is bestowed upon a person, its purpose is to be utilized for good, as the Torah teaches with an episode at the beginning of Exodus.
After the baby Moses was discovered floating on the Nile River by Pharaoh's daughter, the infant was taken to the palace, which is where he grew up.
As soon as he was old enough, Moses "went out to his brothers and he saw their burdens. He saw an Egyptian man striking a Jewish man, one of his brothers… He struck the Egyptian and buried him in the sand. He went out on the second day, and saw two Jewish men quarreling. He said to the wicked one, 'Why would you be striking your friend?' The man responded, 'Who placed you as the man, a prince, and a judge over us? Do you plan to slay me as you have slain the Egyptian?' Moses became frightened and said, 'Indeed, the matter has become known.' Pharaoh heard of this incident, and he attempted to kill Moses. Moses fled from Pharaoh and he settled in the land of Midian." (Exodus 2:11-15).
When Moses saw the two people quarreling with one another, neither one had hit the other. The wording of the Torah in Hebrew is, "Lomoh Sakeh, why would you be striking," not "why have you struck." The hand was raised in preparation to strike, but the hit had not yet happened. Yet, the aggressor is called wicked for simply raising his hand, before any action had actually been taken. Based on this verse, in fact, Jewish law maintains that a person is forbidden even to raise a hand against another person. "One who raises a hand against another, despite not actually hitting the intended person, is wicked." (Maimonides, laws of wounds and damages, 5:2).
Although a person raising a hand against someone else is about to go ahead with an evil intention, it still seems strange to accuse the said person with being wicked without actually having touched the victim! Is it right that one should be punished, or at least branded with a serious label of being wicked, due to an intention?
The answer is about using one's tool in the correct way and for the right reasons. A distinction exists with a human being's body structure, as opposed to the rest of the world: there is a marked difference between the hands and feet. With hands, a human creates, fashions, builds, and so forth. Feet, at the end of a person's body, are designed to carry and transport the person from place to place.
Is it right that one should be punished, or at least branded with a serious label of being wicked, due to an intention?In other words, hands are designed by the Almighty to give and produce. It is through the action of the hands that the human makes a difference, contributing to society and to the world at large. All good deeds are performed, if not practically then symbolically, through the hands.
When a person takes his or her hand and raises it in order to hit someone, the mere fact that the hand has been raised for the purpose of evil – even without actually performing that evil – means that he or she has now taken an action that is diametrically opposed to the hands' function: To give, to impart, to create.
And when someone utilizes a tool for the exact opposite purpose for which the Almighty bestowed it upon the human, this is wickedness.
Every person with tools and power – which is practically everyone – has the ability to utilize the tools and the power in the most positive ways. It is expected of everyone to be a builder, contributing to society and making this world into a better and more pleasing place. Those who abuse their tools and power have not merely missed a chance to contribute; they may be teetering on the brink of wickedness.
Heightened security measures will likely be in place for some time. Agents granted with this serious task and duty must begin to recognize that along with their power comes responsibility. It is their job to make all passengers feel safe and protected, not victimized. I hope that my small comment has made some kind of impact on the security agent I encountered. My goal was that he recognize that he can do his job in a more positive way, and I hope that he is now treating all travelers with the respect and dignity they deserve.