Thursday, August 4, 2011

How the Terrorists Are Winning - Written April 2011

I had a discussion at dinner tonight with some friends about airport security before taking Stephanie to the airport. We sort of reluctantly agreed that we had to submit to a number of uncomfortable interventions in order to stay safe, such as scans and searches at the airport. We discussed children being searched, and again agreed that a good place for a terrorist to hide something was on a child, and so forth.

But as I sat in traffic for a few hours this evening, it sort of gnawed at me, and I realized the way we are handling these threats is allowing the terrorists to win:

I saw an interview last year which fascinated me. It was with the director of airport security for El Al, Israeli Airlines and the Tel Aviv airport. He proudly stated that there had not been a single incident of terrorism on Israeli airlines or any flight originating in or arriving at Tel Aviv airport since he began his tenure some years ago. This certainly seemed quite an accomplishment given the hotbed of terrorism that Israel can be. He said that we were going about security all wrong, and that more technology was not the answer. In the months since, there have been disturbing reports, such as loaded pistols, getting through American airport check points.

This director indicated that they took a much more psychological approach that involved interviewing every passenger. The interview process had allowed them to intercept every weapon of terror prior to passengers even getting to the metal detectors (their only technology.)

I pondered this, and then the question of checking the children. 

It certainly seems that subjecting children to these types of checks have some deep implications on a psychological level. We are breeding in them mistrust and fear. In fact, we are breeding mistrust and fear in all of us. The very fiber we have woven as an attempt to counter the terrorist is one of fear.

It goes back to 9/11 and the days after, during which we were instructed to go shopping while George Bush's handlers rifled through the most far sweeping attacks on our personal freedoms in the history of the country, while Dick Cheney hid in a bunker. Congress approved wire-taps on American citizens, gave executive privileges never dreamed of before that allowed the White House to classify almost anything as a state secret, and George Bush never gave a speech again in which he did not use the word terrorist multiple times.

We created a culture of fear and secrecy.

When victims of abuse are being treated, the most common themes they discuss are fear and secrecy. These are the most difficult things from which to recover. The solution to overcoming fear and secrecy is personal power.

Personal power differs greatly from violence and aggression in that it allows a person to become free by the strength of their own convictions. A person with personal power can never be a victim. A person with personal power does not submit to mob mentality. A person with power finds life energizing and uplifting and looks forward to challenges as opportunities.

The culture we are creating robs people of personal power. It makes them look to violence, anger and hatred as the only tools they have for problem-solving. It victimizes people, and makes people who are not even victims feel like victims. It creates a world in which there is a great-deal of mob-mentaily. It makes people feel down-trodden and robs them of their energy. 

This is the world we live in.

Our response to the terrorists has not been to show them our personal power and show them how we can move on despite them. It has been one of allowing them to destroy us from within. Two buildings were leveled ten years ago, and we have all but destroyed ourselves over it.

The problem is that when a child is being searched at an airport, she is being robbed of a little more of her power.

Ultimately, it is not the technology. That in itself is nothing. A person who can go through an airport check-point with the pride of his or her convictions is no worse off for having been scanned or searched. But when throngs of people are frightened and demoralized by such things, the terrorists have won.

The good news is that people who come from worlds of fear, abuse, victimhood, and so forth, are not lost causes. Nobody is. They can recover from a paradigm shift. It can take a second, or it can take a life-time.

The sad thing is that politicians have seen how to leverage fear (and now hatred) for political gain and for controlling power - the type of power that is abusive (as opposed to personal power.) This is true of both parties, but certainly one uses it more than the other. President Obama is proud of the number of campaign promises he has been able to keep so far, and that is good. But he has not yet kept his most important. Hope.

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