Everyone in Washington is behind the wheel, but nobody is driving.

The first thing my driver’s education teacher taught me, after he showed me the volume knob also clicked the radio off, was that in all situations, at all times, always know where your safety zone was. If someone was behind you and couldn’t stop, where were you going to pull into to get out of their way. If a truck was sliding sideways in the lane next to you, where were you going to go. Just sitting there and getting clobbered was not an option.

In reality, though, sometimes you will get clobbered because there was nowhere to go, but the whole point of the exercise was to keep thinking about your safety zone at all times, to reduce the chances you would be a victim and to keep your mind sharp as you were driving. And to make sure when you were behind the wheel, you were driving every moment.

And I’m thinking about how that really small but important lesson got lost somewhere on the way to Washington, DC.

– Where is the safety zone for detainees in Guantanamo who will never be tried but not be released?

– Where is the safety zone for a war in Iraq that we got into but can’t seem to get out of? How about Afghanistan?

– Where is the safety zone for people who get put on the no-fly list erroneously? What is the procedure to get off it?

– Where is the safety zone for a lot of things that get designed, with no thought of anything going wrong?

Before you design a system that is meant to serve and keep us safe US government people, design shoulders and fire lanes as part of the process. Assume that something may go wrong. Assume we may need to use a safety zone from time to time.

Everyone in Washington is behind the wheel, but nobody is driving.

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