The terrorists have won

When I was a sophomore in high school, we had a unit in our World History class about the Holocaust.  Fran LaBuda, a German Jew who escaped to the US through despite the Nazis, would stand at the door of our classroom and bark orders to us in German as we entered, using a pointer to tell us where to sit, and even push us around as necessary.  A militant looking fellow (later I learned it was her son, and as gentle a guy as you could imagine in real life) escorted anyone who didn’t take it seriously out of the room, rather roughly.

The point was to show us in general how easily we could be cowed by a force we didn’t understand taking our power of independence.  These are upper middle class high school students, and used to getting their way.  Their parents bought them the cool clothes and looked the other way when the rules were transcended.  They wore their ego on their shoulder like a badge of honor.

But when the going got rough, they folded like a bad hand at cards.  Only one person tried to joke about the event with Mrs. LaBuda, and was taken from the room.  He was the class clown, but was nearly in tears when pushed out of the door by the enforcer.

Fast forward to today.  I was in line at the TSA’s security gate at SeaTac.  Walking up and down the line was a rather militant looking fellow yelling out in plain, though loud, English:

“If you do not take your liquids and gels out of your carry-on luggage you will not be allowed to get on your plane.  You will be escorted to enhanced screening, and there is a half day wait.”

Next to me stood a seventy year old woman, grey hair, a Russian Jew by her accent; tears were streaming down her face.  She was frantically digging through her plain bag looking for the satchelof toiletries that was plainly sitting on the table in front of her, unnoticed.

“Your bottles are right here,” I showed her.

“Oh, thank you son,” she sighed in relief.  “I’m just trying to get home to Florida to see my grandson.  I’m so terrified that these people will lock me up.”

She was so terrified that those people would lock her up.  People that were purportedly trying to keep us safe, but who were instead driving this woman, others, myself to tears with worry that one wrong move with the toothpaste could cost us time with loved ones, money, business, whatever.

The terrorists have won.

The goal of a ‘terrorist,’ and thus the name, is terror.  They don’t really care, as a group, if they kill anyone.  As  long as the people they attack live in fear.  They state that they want to kill Americans, and then, largely, don’t.  They just want us to think that they will. (Remember, while 9/11 was a huge tragedy, it doesn’t make much of a mark in the numbers that have died in simple in-fighting in the Arab Alliance. The deaths weren’t the point.  The after-effects were the point.)

We, as a country, as a people, as individuals, have folded.  Just like that classroom of sophomores 20 years ago, we have turned in our independence to the authorities with our papers and our shampoo.  Even the clowns in Washington, once a source of hope, are led crying from the classroom the moment the chips are down.

Please don’t think your humble author is putting himself above you, the reader.  I had planned on traveling with a firearm this trip: because I can, then lock my luggage with my locks, and pretend that I am more secure than most.  I did not, fearing hassle, fearing delay, or just fearing – I’m not sure which.

I don’t have a solution to suggest, dear reader.  I simply needed to lament the passing of a once great country – the greatest of social experiments – into the waste bin of political history.  I do not believe that is within any of us to turn the social tide now, unless Atlas truly does shrug and some number of us retreat to a contemporary Galt’s Gulch.  The slope of our decline is too firmly now in place.  We have lost.

Comments (4) -

Philip Jordan
9/23/2010 2:51:20 PM #

Good post but I disagree with your final assessment.

Unlike those that have come before us, dissenting opinions (like this) are allowed. Even more so they are encouraged.

Through self examination we can improve the process so that it works for all.

Did you complain to the head of TSA at that airport? Have you written a letter to the regional director of the TSA for that region? Or better yet, have your written your congress person to make them aware of your experience?

If not, then you are allowing yourself to be led out of the room without much resistance. The blog post is a good start but let’s not assume that our state and federal representatives have the time or inclination to read ALL of the blog posts of their constituents Smile

TSA agents are public servants. The very minute they stop acting as such they should be dismissed (and to my knowledge they are...provided that a witness comes forth).

Bill Sempf
9/23/2010 5:34:36 PM #

Oh, I am one of the odd ones.  I have submitted 14 complaints to the TSA since they took over, 10 of them related to lost items in my luggage.  None of them have even merited a reply.  I have never been permitted to speak to an administrator on site, having been told to use the paper or web form.  

I'll admit, I am not like those to put my personal health at risk at the TSA's hands, and go the civil disobedience route.  I could claim my family or clients as reasons, but in fact I don't have the fortitude to have control stripped from me to make a point.  I respect those who have.

I believe that no amount of polite disagreement will change things.  They have us under their thumb, and this is just the start.

Thanks for the reply!

S

mgroves
9/23/2010 6:28:45 PM #

So you compare the TSA to Nazi Germany, and that's a bit of a stretch.  They just want to keep explosive off airplanes, not to exterminate Jews and take over Europe.

Maybe a better comparison is WWII America, which was quite fascist (to some degree) within its own rite: ration cards, propaganda efforts, internment camps, government strong-arming of manufacturing companies, etc.  And yet, ultimately, it was all for a very good cause, and that generation of Americans ("The Greatest Generation", if you will) endured all of that, through tough economic times to boot.

While I agree with you that tight TSA control may not be the best answer to terrorist hijackings, it does seem that complaining about shampoo and shoes is peanuts compared to what citizens in the 40s had to deal with.

P.S. I believe that many pundits have been banging the drum about the "little old lady" case in regards to profiling (racial or otherwise), but that's a pill that many people aren't willing to swallow.

Bill Sempf
9/23/2010 6:47:11 PM #

Alright, now.  Godwin's Law doesn't apply on this blog.

The only reason I referenced WWII Germany is because of the parallels drawn by remembering my sophomore class activity.  That's it - please don't read more into it.

The German Jews did what they were told.  At first, it was just a little.  Then it was a lot.

We are doing what we are told.  At first it is just a little.

That's all I'm saying, man.  Not comparing gas chambers and shampoo bottles.

S

Comments are closed

Bill Sempf

Husband. Father. Pentester. Secure software composer. Brewer. Lockpicker. Ninja. Insurrectionist. Lumberjack. All words that have been used to describe me recently. I help people write more secure software.

PageList

profile for Bill Sempf on Stack Exchange, a network of free, community-driven Q&A sites

MonthList