Sunday, January 17, 2010

Guess What I've Got For You in My Pants (It's a Bomb)

When Xmas Day arrived, so too did a gift for conservatives in the form of Umar Mutallab, a young Muslim Nigerian man - and son of one of the wealthiest men in Africa - who attempted to set off plastic explosives concealed in his underwear on a flight bound for Michigan from Amsterdam. His weapon malfunctioned and passengers subdued him, putting out the fire he started, and everyone walked away from the incident safely. And so, it was time for the American right-wing to grab the terror bull by the horns and ride it into the American people yet again.

As Daily Show host Jon Stewart recently articulated it well, another round of "Terrorball" has begun. What does Terrorball entail? Mostly Republican politicians and Fox News's right-wing propaganda machine "keeping score" on attempted terrorist attacks in this country with the intention of framing the discussion as one of Republicans being "tough on terror," while terrorists have been coming out of the woodwork since Obama took office. This argument also entails the claim that we somehow didn't suffer any attacks from Islamic extremists or anyone else during the Bush years - including going as far as to taking the precious political prop they've made the September 11th attacks into and insisting it was something that happened on Bill Clinton's watch and that no one can blame Bush for it when his administration had the intelligence necessary to act and prevent it and chose instead to do nothing.

The Republicans spent the George W. Bush years ruling with fear, insinuating that the September 11th attacks would unquestionably be repeated if the American people voted the Democrats into power again. This, of course, led to severe disillusionment with the party as the nation all but collapsed under their dangerous governance this past decade, and played a huge part in the Democratic sweeps in the 2006 and 2008 elections. Not that the Democrats actually got to properly check the Bush administration's power in many ways that counted in the final years, and as I'll discuss soon in a forthcoming post, even a majority hasn't helped the Democrats accomplish nearly enough since Obama took office.

The Republicans have exploited (And continue to exploit) every bit of paranoia they could, seeking to benefit from even the notion of terrorism. Fear-based politics subvert and smother real political dialogue, and following their 2006 and 2008 defeats, they're dead-set on continuing to use these disgusting tactics in a complete insult to both the American people and all those who've actually died on account of extremists.

The attempted December 25th attack has led to a focus on stepping up airport security with plans to expand the use of new body scanners that function like unwarranted strip searches, scanning through people's clothes. Naturally, many people are not so happy about this, what with all the additional violations of privacy we're introducing in the name of security. Not the first sacrifice we've made - and undoubtedly not the last - to supposedly make ourselves safer. Our civil liberties and privacy rights have been eroding by the year since the September 11th attacks, and we aren't standing up as a nation against this. As a moderate, Obama isn't going to stop it, either. All they have to do is wave the "Terrorists might get us unless we give these things up!" wand and everyone gives in. What we forget - what no one wants to address - is the fact that it's impossible to be 100% safe. No matter how many liberties and privacy rights we sacrifice, we will never be meaningfully safer for it. There is no 100% failsafe method to keeping the American people safe at all times.

Benjamin Franklin, American pimpmeister. Image obviously not mine.Founding father Benjamin Franklin famously wrote, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." And now, that is our trajectory - Bin Laden and his cohorts don't need to actually attack or kill anyone to wreck this nation as is their goal - they just have to scare us every so often and we'll destroy ourselves. All the same, we remain constantly on the lookout for new "enemies" (Many on the right have already concluded that Yemen is the "next war" following our invasion, occupation, and wrecking of Afghanistan and Iraq, neither of which we're doing much long term good for, even when the Obama administration has made it clear that an invasion of Yemen isn't even on the table.) and, as you'd typically expect of Americans, in no way asking ourselves why it is that we have enemies at all, and why it would make sense that there are people who'd want to blow us up or fly planes into our buildings. Instead, we get right-wing talking points to the tune of that we're hated because "we're the greatest country in the world and they hate our freedom." Wrong answer. In reality, that kind of attitude is absolutely part of why we're hated - and naturally, this same crowd's angry that America's image has improved as much as it has abroad on account of the election of Barack Obama.

Our culture of fear is only going to drag this country into ruin.


CrazyCris said...

I think that's what's the most annoying about all the new safety measures... if someone really wants to get a bomb on board, they'll find a way to do so! All these damn rules are just making our (the passengers) lives miserable! My biggest gripe is with the no liquids allowed through. Seriously?! I can't bring a bottle of water through? I have to pay 3 times the normal price and get it inside the security zone?! ARGH!!!

Benjamin Fennell said...

Yes indeed. There is a point at which new security measures become far more of a hassle to travelers than they are a valuable means of security. Once you cross that line into excess, you get more and more people avoiding flying - and the airlines are all hurting from that - due to that the inconvenience of actually getting through the airport and onto the plane now trumps the convenience of how much time flying can cut down. If we actually pull off the high speed rail the Obama administration wants to get going across the country - which I'm sure the Republicans will fight with tooth and nail in the name of the auto industry and airlines - it'll rightfully eat into the airlines even more.

But yeah, that's just ridiculous. Pure exploitation. I haven't flown since a few days before 9/11 myself, so I haven't seen the new security hell firsthand, but I've heard all kinds of horror stories like this. We're not protecting America from terrorist attacks - we're punishing travelers out of paranoia.

CrazyCris said...

I actually haven't lived through any security horror stories myself, but that's mainly because I'm a very well informed traveller (I fly quite a bit for a person who does it on her own dime, as opposed to paid business trips) and I know what I can and can't do on the plane, through security etc. The only time I had a problem was when I forgot my nail kit in my carry-on instead of putting it my suitcase. Security here in Alicante didn't pick it up (or deemed it reasonably safe, I mean seriously, nail clippers? tiny scissors?), but the people in Basel (switzerland, changing planes) did. But being the wonderfully polite (and well-funded) Swiss nation, they just put the "dangerous" items in an envelope and mailed them to me! :o)

As for the high-speed trains, I'll choose them over a plane any day! Only depends on price difference and as long as the time difference isn't more than ~3-4h (what with arriving at airport early, security, getting from destination airport to downtown -most train stations are downtown already- 3-4h means very little difference in actual travel time)

Benjamin Fennell said...

That's good to hear. It looks like the Swiss security agents have a better handle on what they're doing there than here, too. I've already heard of TSA agents here confiscating people's laptops just because they could - and scans being performed of them for copyrighted pirated material, government workers outright serving corporate interests by looking for pirated mp3s and movies, which is utterly nuts and shouldn't be a priority, let alone in security. And I've read a number of other security horror stories as a result of rampant abuses of power, since we basically let our TSA agents do whatever they want in the name of 'security,' while we ask for very few qualifications when hiring these people. Very, very bad ideas.

It makes me think of that recent news story where a Canadian author driving back up to Canada ended up getting beaten pretty severely by US border agents here since he got out of his car and tried to talk to them after they told him not to. An insanely excessive response to someone trying to speak to them reasonably. The wonders of what paranoia does for us.

Ah, indeed, indeed. You'd think travel by high speed rail would be far cheaper than flying, and trains are always more appealing. :)