Caution can stop terror

by Staff

If you’re the kind of person who thinks that President Bush is doing a “heckuva” job handling the war on terror, then, please, tell me what the weather in Fantasy Land is like. The truth of the matter is that our country – our world – is not any safer or less susceptible to terrorism today than it was on Sept. 10, 2001. A growing hatred of Bush, the United States and a decreasing stability in the most volatile regions on Earth have spawned more terrorists than ever.

Sadly, we couldn’t be less prepared.

You know all the rhetoric and have seen all the feigned attempts to quell the frightened masses. The Patriot Act, the Department of Homeland Security, an invasion of Iraq – all were developed with the supposed intent to secure, sanctify and make our home turf safer. I never bought any of it until last week.

I’m no bleeding-heart, American Civil Liberties Union-card-thumping embracer of all things liberal. However, I’ve always had a pretty clear picture regarding what is and isn’t acceptable in the world of civil rights and civil liberties. So when six Muslim imams were removed last week from a US Airways flight before takeoff, I found myself struggling to figure out whether this was the right thing to do.

Passengers and crewmembers reported seeing the men – some wearing traditional Muslim clothing and beards – gathering together before the flight to pray by themselves. One passenger wrote a note describing the suspicious behavior and then gave it to crew members. Once the imams boarded, the six men all sat separately on the plane. Initial reports indicated that three of the men had one-way tickets and carried no baggage, though these reports have been disputed.

What would you have done if you saw this?

The problem with political correctness is that it causes us to walk that thin line between instinct and politeness. If I saw six Muslim men pray before a flight and then separate upon boarding, I would run, not walk, off the plane. Sorry, but I would.

Is it OK that I feel this way? Is it OK that passengers aboard that US Airways flight felt so strongly that they reported the men’s suspicious behavior? Or is it such a blatant and insulting infringement upon civil liberties that we should all be ashamed to have seen it happen on American soil?

The answers to these questions are neither simple nor clear. The questions are so unsettling and provoking that we’d almost prefer not to respond to them. The truths lay embedded in the concrete below what were once the World Trade Center buildings.

While I might stop short of calling the US Airways passengers and crew “heroic,” I would offer them my admiration for doing what they knew was right. They didn’t tempt fate by allowing their sense of civil decency or political correctness to get in the way.

We live in terrible times with terrible people, and we live with a government that cannot be trusted to protect us. Not solely because of Bush (although he doesn’t help) but because the terrorists are smarter than we are. We – not the president and not even the Department of Homeland Security – are the protectors of our homeland and defenders of our way of life.

The rhetoric about fighting in Iraq to protect our freedom at home shouldn’t be enough to convince a 4-year-old, yet somehow we’re there and, believe it or not, there are people who buy it. The war on terror began here, in America – in Dulles, Va., Shanksville, Pa., the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. And much like how the Civil War began and ended at Appomattox, Va., this conflict will be no different. With troop deployment in Afghanistan and Iraq, we are left alone as sole guardians of this hallowed ground and the starry firmament above it.

There was once Lincoln, Grant, Patton, Eisenhower and Roosevelt, and now there is Bush and his horde of merry men. Americans are alone, but the good people aboard a US Airways flight from Minneapolis to Phoenix had their conscious level of fear to save them.

What happened to the imams was, ultimately, embarrassing and offensive, and if it happened to me, I’d feel much like they do. But this is America, 2006, and all we have for protection is each other.

-Ben Shore is a political science junior.

-This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec. Send e-mail to letters@thedailyaztec.com. Anonymous letters will not be printed – include your full name, major and year in school.

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