Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 5, No. 6, 2006
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
  Contributing Editors
Bernard Dubé
Diane Gordon
Robert Rotondo
Dan Stefik
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Emanuel Pordes
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
  Noam Chomsky
Mark Kingwell
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
David Solway
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward




Heard after 9/11: Please God, save us
from those who believe in You.

“I’m 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.

They 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.

Since 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 that.

September 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.

Terrorism 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.

Since 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?

So 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.

In 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.

But 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.

The 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.

If 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.


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