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Nedda Alammar Headshot

Bin Laden's Been Dead, Right?

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When Osama bin Laden was killed, I thought 'Wow. This is a big moment. The kind of moment that changes everything.' 'Maybe,' I thought, 'just maybe this will be the end of all of the fear. The profiling. The lines at airport security. After all, bin Laden was the Guy.'

But was he? Just the other day I basically got a pat-down at a security checkpoint at the freakin' Statue of Liberty. Really? The Statue of Liberty? Who would bomb that? A tourist hater? Actually, that would make more sense...

I digress.

My point is this: nothing has changed since bin Laden's capture -- so what does it really mean? We still have to strip down at airports, get frisked at the Burger King, and any guy with a dark complexion and a 5 o'clock shadow will probably be thrown in jail. And to make matters worse, nothing in recent history has helped make things better. Certainly not the crazy Norwegian guy who killed eighty people in the name of Christian supremacy and against Muslim anything -- because if we keep allowing Islam, pretty soon everyone will want to pray five times a day, go on the crash diet of Ramadan, strap on an airplane and bomb some buildings.

Right.

As an American well-versed in Crazy (thank you Timothy McVeigh and the Unabomber) I have to wonder, why do we as Americans still feel the need to protect ourselves? And how much are we protecting ourselves, really? Does confiscating everyone's tiny scissors really make everyone safer?

Since security lines at airports turn me into a huge b-tch -- actually, the same is true of any line -- I can only imagine what it's like for foreigners entering our country. So when my fabulous, Botox-giving, technically-an-orthodontist cousin came to New York for a holiday, I was thrilled -- not just for the Botox, but for some perspective.

Fucking hell,

he said. When I deduced he wasn't talking about my forehead, I realized he'd been detained at JFK airport -- a place so wrong on so many levels. Apparently, he had to undergo a series of probing questions by a security woman taking copious notes by doodling pictures of houses and horses -- while thumbing through his passport.

So why did you travel to Spain in 2006?

she asked while drawing shutters with zig-zagging curtains. As she was passing out to his favorite color, she probably decided that this snappy dresser was not a terrorist but just a guy with the bad luck of being born in Baghdad. Actually, she probably passed out before reaching that conclusion.

Too bad he wasn't offered a deal like my other cousin.

My other cousin, who should be detained for being somewhat of a nuisance, was handed over to a disinterested Polish security guy who was a good chap because he was depressed about everything including his job in a dry sarcastic way. The Polish security guy quickly realized that my anglicized British cousin was not a terrorist, and stated that if he helped him out, he could skip to the head of the long line of wannabe terrorists.

Translate for me while I interview this Syrian guy.

He's Iraqi,

my cousin said, pointing to the guy's duffel bag that said 'Iraqi Refugee'.

Right.

And so my cousin used the little Arabic he knew to conduct an interview imperative to US national security. Bang Bang! he motioned with his hands--which means, Were you ever in the army?

No no no!

the refugee exclaimed, frantically taking cover. The Polish security guy thanked my cousin for his help as he moved on to the refugee's Filipino female support worker.

So,

he said smoothly,

what's your name?

After listening to these stories, I immediately thought, really? War on Terror? This is how it's fought? Doodle art? A deal? A Filipino support worker? America is not really that ridiculous, I tried to tell my cousins. I mean, look, we're building that mosque/gym by Ground Zero.
Oh wait, are we? Does anyone know what's going on with that?

I guess the sad truth is that no matter how many bin Ladens we capture, no matter how many battles we 'win' in this never-ending war against terror, nothing will really change. We will still have to strip down at airports, get frisked at the Burger King, and continue to fear Arabs -- not because we want to, but because we're supposed to.

With an 'it was brilliant' and a promise never to return, my British cousins gave me the perspective was looking for.

America is all right, yes, but your country doesn't have anything that other countries don't offer.

But I had to disagree with them there. I mean, how many countries can say they caught their Public Enemy Number One -- that must count for something.

Which one was that?

my cousins asked.