sorry, sir, but you can’t take that on board,” said
the security official in a benign, narcosis inducing baritone,
a voice he’s been obliged to use ever since the London
terrorist plot was uncovered. His manner was so ingratiating,
for a second I thought he was a close friend. How are the wife
and kids, I almost asked.
couldn’t have chosen a better person to work the security
x-ray machine at Pierre Trudeau International Airport in Montreal.
He was referring to my mini vial of contact lens liquid which
I would later use to float my lenses during the eight-hour flight.
I considered shaking the daylights out of the bottle to reassure
him that it wasn’t nitroglycerin. “I usually don’t
wear lenses when I fly,” I explained. “What can
I say?” his sympathetic eyes seemed to reply. “Next
time you had better pack them in your luggage.” The long
table behind him was overflowing with containers of all shapes
and sizes, which now included my lens liquid vial.
the disruption of the terrorist plot in London and implementation
of new regulations interdicting all liquids, gels etc. in hand
luggage, my thoughts had been turning criminal, plotting ways
to get my two teaspoons worth of Bausch & Lomb past security.
I considered crotching it, or parking the vial in my mouth for
the inspection, a strategy that wouldn’t survive the first
question and answer sequence. But law-biding person that I am,
I overruled my wicked designs and thought with a little bit
of luck and common sense, they would let it go. So much for
terrorist bombings in resort towns in Turkey have all but shut
down a once thriving tourist industry, costing the country millions
in revenues; the same in Israel and Egypt and wherever terrorism
is a reality on the ground. Terrorism has cost the world billions
of dollars to which we add time lost worrying and wondering
about what is happening to our world.
works and its working effects are cumulative. Contrary to conventional
wisdom, the terrorists do have a goal: to remake the world in
their own image, to make us as unfree as them. Which makes every
terrorist event a success because it is not so much the damage
it inflicts but the fact and production of the event we are
not able to prevent that rips into and embeds itself in the
psyche like an unexploded bullet.
terrorism is not going to go away, the question we must ask
is do we allow ourselves to be held hostage by the constant
threat of it and resign ourselves to the gradual erosion of
freedoms that have defined the Western spirit, or do we decide
to live with terrorism on our terms -- and not theirs?
far, we’ve been playing by their rules, in part because
we have failed to offer sufficient thought to the gross disconnect
that has peripheralized the sacrifice of tens of thousands of
men and women who have fought to the death for the sake of the
freedoms and liberties we enjoy – and obscenely take for
granted. There comes a time when the beliefs and founding principles
of every nation and its politics are put to the test, and I
believe we are at this crossroads moment. Just as deserts are
encroaching on what was once arable land, terrorism is eating
way at our freedoms. The question both of these unrelated events
ask is whether there exists the political will to reverse them.
Perhaps the solution is as simple as learning to think outside
the box, to recontextualize terrorism so that it corresponds
to a value commensurate with the warped and debased project
that it is. If we can live with the fact that thousands of soldiers
have sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom, surely
we can learn to live with terrorist events that in and of themselves
should be no more noteworthy than a plane crash, bridge collapse,
or ferry sinking, which are serious enough, but do not impact
on our way of life.
North America we love our alcohol. We discovered how much so
during prohibition when millions of decent, law-biding citizens
resorted to breaking the laws of the land for the sake of their
booze. Every year on our North American highways 50,000
people, many of whom are under the influence,
are killed in motor vehicle accidents, while 250,000 more are
injured, many of them seriously. Billions of dollars and tears
are spent burying the dead, attending to the injured, supporting
for life those who can no longer support themselves. That’s
how much we love our automobiles.
don’t we love our freedom more than our A & A (alcohol
and autos)? If on Jan. 1st of the new year we won’t bat
an eyelash at the thought that 50,000 people are going to be
killed in alcohol related automobile accidents, we should be
at least as blasé at the thought that only 2,000 of us
will lose our lives in terrorist related incidents over the
course of the year. For those of us who don’t want our
phones tapped, our IDs rigged with personal information that
leave us vulnerable to the greedy and exploitive, who don’t
want to bother worrying about contact lens liquid restrictions,
having to remove our bras and shoes at security check points,
what words to avoid in our e-mails for fear of triggering an
investigation or getting put on someone’s list, and in
general, the gradual legislative erosion of freedoms upon which
our way of life is founded, 2,000 deaths is a small price to
pay compared to the 50,000 who will die on the road.
hard fact of the matter is that it’s not yet unconscionable
that the world’s 1,000 worst terrorists are methodically
refashioning the world in their own image by out-thinking us,
by making us fear, tremble and genuflect to their agenda. Since
terrorism is not science, but psychology, where the cause can
produce any number of contingent effects, why are we allowing
ourselves to be affected exactly as they would have it? Which
makes terrorism a war of wills, and all land-based counter-terrorist
wars red herrings.
the mentally tougher terrorist mind is to be undone, we will
have to will ourselves to rethink the meaning of terrorism in
order to assign it its due value in relation to what is due
to our hard earned freedoms. Less than that, we have signed
on to a blueprint of a world where terrorism will one day no
longer be necessary because it will have rendered us as unfree
as the terrorists themselves.
AND TREMBLING IN THE AGE OF TERROR, pt. II
A BROKEN MIDDLE EAST