As America closes out 2009, we usher in the New Year with a newly refreshened and heightened sense of panic. This, after last week’s would be attack by 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab whose failed attempt to ignite an incendiary device aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit has quite conveniently reminded us all just why we need our government to impede on the last of personal freedoms when traveling by air.
The latest madness that travelers are subjected to includes staying in your seat for the last hour of your international flight with your hands in plain sight. That's a feat that most kindergartners couldn’t pull off even with the threat of Federal prison time hanging over their heads, much less adults who contrary to popular belief by the Transportation Security Authority and Homeland Security, can’t control their bladder when it’s that time to go.
But as we so obediently subject ourselves to even longer lines and even more scrutiny while traveling through the nation’s airports, I have to tell you, none of it makes me feel any safer.
I think that we lose more and more of our common sense when the threat of domestic terrorism is in the air—literally. Fueled by media reports of shiny, happy people all too eager to get patted down, groped, and fondled in the name of public safety, today it’s no restroom use an hour before touchdown, tomorrow, I make some horny TSA agent's day going through a full-body scanner. So what’s next? A new airport surcharge to pay for that full-body scanner that strips me of every ounce of dignity and any pride I have left followed by an additional airline surcharge on top of the already ridiculously high price I paid for that ticket to begin with.
And don’t get me started on what type of racial profiling is going to take place on Black people traveling into and around the United States until they open their mouths and display an American accent. Let me just say, leave the Kente cloth and other fashionable African prints at home for a while and to my East, West, and South African brothers and sisters, work on that accent because history has shown, you will be targeted. Ask your Northern African counterparts, or as we so affectionately refer to them, people from the Middle East.
Thanks to mainstream media, the nation is all abuzz over how a Nigerian, as if somehow Nigerians are inferior to Americans, could get through airport security with a bomb in his underwear.
But what about America’s international policies, both past and present, that continue to ensure that this won’t be the last attempt on American lives?
Congress can use taxpayer money to hold all of the hearings they want on what went wrong. I like political theatrics as much as the next person, but it’s not going to change the fact that it’s America’s policies that dictate and fuel the hate of us by others. And even if we’re not willing to make changes in how we try to run other countries, what abut the barely living wage that’s paid to the average TSA agent at domestic airports, which almost ensures that someone somewhere will slip through security. I don’t know but it seems to me that if we paid TSA agents like we pay the officers who police our streets, maybe, just maybe, the system would work.
I live with the threat of domestic terrorism every single day. You tell me what’s worse—suicide bombers or gang members. They both just don’t give a f$%! and will just as soon take me out in pursuit of their cause. It’s just that one of the two receives the government’s full attention and our silent obedience when it comes to trying to get a handle on what we deem as domestic terrorism while the other continues to terrorize law-abiding citizens domestically.
Why is it that Americans will write a blank check when it comes to certain types of terrorism? Why is it that we then raise an eyebrow in objection the minute a new tax is imposed to add more officers on the street or new legislation is proposed to provide more intervention and prevention to the same young men and women who are carrying out domestic terrorism in the form of gangs and gang violence?
I’ll feel safer in this world the day we start treating gang violence with the same sense of urgency and government participation that we afford to 23-year-old Nigerians with incendiary devices in their underwear aboard airplanes.
Unexpected and unapologetically Black, at Jasmyne Cannick, 32, is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the worlds of pop culture, race, class, sexuality, and politics as it relates to the African-American community. She can be reached at www.jasmynecannick.com.