On Christmas Day, 2009, a man boarded a plane with the intent of bringing it down or causing serious damage. His plot didn't go to plan, foiled by the brave men and women who sent the message to him, and to every other person out there that would do the same: No! We, the passengers are not going to sit idly by while you hurt us or others. We are not cowards, and we are not afraid of you. They took him down and the plane landed safely.
They weren't terrorized; they were spurred into action and when called upon, exhibited courage and bravery. It's happened before, most notably on 9/11 and may, in fact, happen again. The headlines that day should have read "Passengers Again Prove Stronger Than Al Quaeda" or "Passengers Rebuff Terrorists, Injuring Attacker" or other such empowering headlines. Once again America had the chance to be in the driver's seat, in a position of power. Instead, American media, and officials, chose the victim route and the cowering and scampering to get under tables began almost immediately. Suddenly, passengers became prisoners on flights, not able to move during the last hour, having to ask permission to go pee like in second grade.
The minutia of the event began to be too much, as did the coverage. Prior, the news only had the fact that the Midwest had snow (now there's breaking news in December), so a real live terrorist attempt certainly spiced up the holiday anchors' lives.
The coverage and knee jerk reaction became too much for some, myself included, so it was back to holiday TV. Somehow in the afternoon we all found ourselves watching "The Tale of Despereaux" on cable; the story of an outcast mouse that uses bravery, courage and honor to help a princess (of course). But the movie spoke of Americans, not mice. In the film, Despereaux is an outcast because he's a mouse that refuses to be afraid. As flash cards are shown in his mouse class, when a cleaver appears, he doesn't hide and scamper like the others, and simply comments on how they are used to cook. His Peachie has doodles of cats because he thinks they're cute instead of fearful agents of death. The mouse council doesn't know what to do. What if he teaches other mice not to fear? After all, "he has to learn how to be afraid, after all, no one is born afraid..." says the mouse leader.
No one is born afraid. Profound words from an animated mouse (and yes, there are OTHER animated mice out there). As I saw the class of mice reacting to the flash cards the cable news, modern day flash cards, came to mind, flashing stories to warm the heart, and then images to terrorize. The problem is, I'm not afraid, no one should be. And America has to decide, are we the society of mice that live behind walls, cowering and scampering when told to, when taught to, or are we Despereaux Tilly, relying on honor, courage, on bravery and wit instead of fear? Because so far, we scamper.
The nation gets attacked by thugs on 9/11, nothing more than an organized gang based in Afghanistan, and the nation responds in fear, attacking a country that had nothing to do with the event and killing thousands of innocents, an act that not only does not make the nation any safer but puts it in greater danger. For eight years after that fear and terror was the administration's stock in trade. There were so many color coded terror alerts I had to get a new wardrobe just to make sure I didn't clash. Wouldn't want to wear Yellow or Red on an Orange or Green alert day. So many freedoms were handed over in the name of fear they may never be regained and Benjamin Franklin's head would have exploded.
We had to fear each other for eight years. Fear the evil gays, they may want to get married and then go in to schools and churches and convert you and your children and make them in to a gay. Fear women who want to make medical decisions with their doctors, they may be cold blooded killers of the unborn and must be stopped. Fear anything and anyone different. Fear the illegal immigrants, they're here to take your jobs and your health care dollars. Fear those Hollywood Liberals or they'll do terrible things like give you health care and better education. Fear Russia for whatever reason. Fear China for not giving us any more money and for our incomes drying up. Fear oil running out or the Middle East cutting us off. And most of all, fear the terrorists, because they are, in fact out to get you and you will die.
Fear modified light brights used to promote a movie in Boston and shut down the city (remember the Aqua Teen Hunger Force debacle, that literally caused Boston to panic and nearly evacuate?) Fear a simple plane flying low over your city, as New Yorkers ran like Godzilla was coming out of the Hudson simply because Air Force One was having a photo shoot. Fear each other at airports, as every single person getting on a plane is treated as a potential terrorist. So, they could be, right?
The fact is, American's run and scamper, like the mice in "Despereaux" every chance they get. Protect us oh mighty government, keep us safe, despite the fact that regular Americans have shown, when faced with real fear, real terror, they shine. They take down the assailant, or the plane. No, the perception is we are victims of this or that, and must be protected.
Well, I, for one, am no one's victim. As an openly gay man, I learned a long time ago you get to play one role well; either you're the victim, or not.
I will not fly with the new restrictions unless I absolutely have to. People, even famous ones, get by without air planes and still have lives. Whoopi Goldberg, Aretha Franklin, and many others won't fly. Airlines are private businesses. I'm not going to give a company hundreds of dollars so when I get to the airport I can immediately be treated like a potential threat to the world. I'm a 47-year-old gay white male, not a threat to anyone these days except those that wish to silence me. I won't ask permission to access my bag, be strapped to a chair, denied bathroom privileges and nor will I go through one more second of ridiculous screening since it is OBVIOUS it doesn't work. Next, they'll want naked x-rays or random cavity searches. Hell, soon, they'll be cubicles we sit in, the rows on planes the equivalent of small cages, that are locked when you sit down and unlocked when you arrive, for your own safety, of course.
No thank you. I'll ride my Aprilia Mana 850 wherever and whenever I can. It's two wheels and fuel economy will speed me along, and anything else, there's trains, boats, other means, video chat, conference calls, virtual meetings...nope until airlines realize flying should be ENJOYABLE and not like being incarcerated for a few hours, then I'll opt out as much as possible. And so should you.
And to all of those shouting for more regulation, get a grip. It's all acceptable risk. I mentioned my motorcycle. Each time I ride it, I know that 5000 people a year are killed by drivers that won't put down their phones. Another 25,000 a year die in other accidents, so about 30,000 people a year die on our roads, more than 100 times any plane crash, and at least 10x more than on 9/11. Each time you get in your car, or me on my motorcycle, we accept the risk that 30,000 of us a year don't make our destinations ever. Would you fly if 30,000 people a year died on planes? Would you live in a country where 30,000 people a year died at the hands of Al Qeada? We know the risks and we do it anyway. Makes the hoopla over flying seem silly.
We know 40,000 people, or 120,000 prior to the 2013 enactment of a weak health care bill, will die from lack of access to proper medical treatment. Not 500 in a catastrophic plane crash, 3000 in an act of terror, 60,000 in a dirty bomb. Nope, 120,000, many children, will cease to exist because they can't access existing state-of-the-art medical care because they are economic slaves. The real terror of a single person, a mom or a dad, without coverage getting sick or a child needing care exists in this country every minute of every hour and no one springs to help. No knee jerk reaction to 40,000 deaths a year, like universal coverage.
So spare me the fear over terrorism on planes. There's a lot worse to be afraid of in America and chances of dying or harm far greater from just driving a car or getting sick than from Al Qaeda.
President Obama was quoted in a speech about this "attempted act of terrorism." Is it? It's only a terrorist act if it instills terror. Did it? Not in me. I, for one, am sick and tired of being afraid of a shadow enemy. And as Joe turncoat Lieberman and others talk about the Yemen connection, and how Yemen is the new front in the war on terror, I refuse to bring another Middle Eastern name into the lexicon of things of which Americans should be afraid. We must fear Iraq and Saddam Hussein, Iran is part of the Axis of Evil and we should fear nukes they don't have, fear 'Lil Kim's nukes in the North of Korea, Fear the Taliban taking over Pakistan and getting the bomb, or Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Fear Israel and Lebanon having a go, fear Hamas, fear oil supply interruption, and now, fear Yemenis that wish to do harm to Americans. Well Joe Lieberman and Obama and everyone else: If Yemen is the leader in the terror front, then why are you sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan? Are you getting it wrong, AGAIN?
News stations want you to be afraid, so you'll tune in. The government wants you to be afraid so you'll give them powers, authorities, funding for wars and bombs and such. Evangelicals want you to fear anything not like you. On and on. When is enough enough?
2010 is around the corner. We can start it as those cowering mice, learning each day some new thing to fear, for our own good, of course, or we can say enough! Enough airlines, if you can't get this right, we just won't fly. If you can't make an enjoyable experience where we are all not treated like guilty cattle on our way to slaughter while keeping us as safe as possible with accepted risks then forget it. Enough! to our government that thinks they can kill, fight, torture or regulate their way out of future attacks all in our names, for our own good and none of it working.
An Enough! to Americans who have forgotten their spines and allowed private companies or public governments to infringe upon so many of their rights simply because they are afraid. Al Qaeda doesn't frighten me as much as a country of people afraid of their own shadows.
If anyone is keeping score, add the Christmas day event to the side of the terrorists, again. They keep winning every time we act so fearful and react so rashly. Their cause is all over the news for days, the name of the terrorist (instead of the name of the passengers that took him down), hell, Al Qaeda doesn't need a press agent. Bin Laden farts and the world listens. One maniac goes unhinged and the free world stops, all other news vanishes.
What's really terrorizing is the fact that while this dominates the news, the chances of any real, meaningful health care reform slips right on by. We're too afraid to demand universal coverage, single payer, might upset the MINORITY of Republicans. What's even more terrorizing is that the moneyed interests in the country keep talking recovering while millions fall in to poverty ever day without a net.
Many things may harm you in America, but chances are, they'll be American grown not Al Qaeda. So man up America, that would be change we could believe in.
Follow Charles Karel Bouley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/therealkarel