Archives » December 31st, 2002

December 31, 2002

Culture of Fear

Let’s say I’ve been given a choice. The choice is:

  1. Terrorism
  2. Airport workers feeling up pregnant women and arresting their husbands for getting offended

Honestly, I’d rather have the terrorism. This story just highlights what I’ve been noticing, that we are becoming an increasingly paranoid society here in America. Everybody is sure, sure, that the terrorists are out there, just waiting to grab us. A culture of fear is growing in this country, and it’s being spearheaded by our President and his new Department of Homeland Security. And what you end up with is citizens, normally rational and sane, now confident in the knowledge that one day there will be a biological attack, and we’re all going to end up huddling in clinic with our family, waiting to get a smallpox innoculation.

I never used to fly anywhere anyway. It’s too expensive and too much of a hassle, and when you drive you arrive at your destination with your own car and a ton more luggage. But these days I’m even less likely to fly. Now airports have longer lines, double the number of security personnel, and huge machines that scan every piece of baggage. And who is going to end up paying for all of it? Ticket holders, of course. Travelling long distances, a task that should be getting faster and cheaper as technology improves, is actually getting slower and more expensive, all because nobody trusts anybody else after the last fifteen months. More than that, though, what I hate about flying is that airports are where the new attitude of the government is most visible. These days, everybody is guilty until proven innocent. Everyone has a gun in their pocket and a bomb in their suitcase, until they’ve been personally checked and cleared of the charges. A country where people check pregnant women’s breasts for explosives is not a country I want to live in. The assumption of guilt makes me sick to my stomach, and if it’s an indication of what we have to look forward to in the New Year and beyond, it’s going to be a long century indeed.

I actually feel less safe flying today than I did two years ago. I’m not afraid of terrorists, but I’m afraid of getting arrested for acting “suspicious”. And in the meantime, anyone determined enough can still hijack and take control of an airplane. There isn’t anything they can do to eliminate that possibility. All these security measures do is appease the paranoid and win favor for the officials that enact them, the same officials creating the paranoia in the first place.