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Friday, February 10, 2006

The Post-9/11 World 

I've become a big fan of Patrick Smith's weekly Salon column, "Ask the Pilot." This week's is especially good in talking about our country's insane reaction to 9/11. As they say in the blogging industry, read the whole thing, but here's the upshot (background: he's talking about taking pictures at airports):
Finally I'm asked to open my camera and scroll through each of its stored photographs, presumably to ensure I haven't snapped any shots of those shadowy forbidden items. When that checks out, and the news comes crackling back that I'm not a wanted fugitive, the officer thanks me for cooperating and lets me go. He makes sure to remind me, just as his colleague in New Hampshire had done, that next time I'd benefit from advance permission, and that "we live in a different world now."

Not to put undue weight on the cheap prose of patriotic convenience, but few things are more repellant than that oft-repeated catchphrase. There's something so pathetically submissive about it -- a sound bite of such defeat and capitulation. It's also untrue; indeed we find ourselves in an altered way of life, though not for the reasons our protectors would have us think. We weren't forced into this by terrorists, we've chosen it. When it comes to flying, we tend to hold the events of Sept. 11 as the be-all and end-all of air crimes, conveniently purging our memories of several decades' worth of bombings and hijackings. The threats and challenges faced by airports aren't terribly different from what they've always been. What's different, or "too bad," to quote the New Hampshire deputy, is our paranoid, overzealous reaction to those threats, and our amped-up obeisance to authority. [Emphasis added]
I encourage you to skim through his archives--he has a lot of interesting things to say about airport security.
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