Every time I turn on the radio or read newspaper I hear or see moving testimonials from those whose lives were dramatically altered by the events of 9/11/01. I find these reflections to be fitting tributes, but I also wonder about where we go from here. In particular, I ponder how fear is shaping us.
I worked in telecom network engineering for a number of years, and the marketing professionals whose job it was to define the value proposition of engineering solutions were always crafting FUD—fear, uncertainty and doubt. It was not enough to create a case so compelling it inspired belief that one solution was clearly best. One also had to plant FUD concerning doing nothing or alternative solutions. Fear, marketing professionals knew, was a more powerful fuel for action than faith.
US policy makers were well versed in the power of FUD in the aftermath of 9/11. Remember Homeland Security’s urging to have an emergency kit but demurring as to what it should contain? Textbook FUD. I may take heat for saying it, but I know road warriors who feel the TSA is a form of government terrorism against the travelling public. Every trip starts with the inescapable reminder that danger, real or imagined, is present.
I was selected for special security screening once when travelling alone with my daughter. She was three years old and it succeeded in terrifying her. She was told to sit in a chair amid a sea of strangers hurrying to collect their things and rushing past while I was pulled aside for the search. She was afraid to do as she was told, but reluctantly she did, and she sat on the edge of her chair anxiously trying to see what was happening to me. When it was over, she implored me to tell her what they were looking for or what bad thing I had done. She was just too young to comprehend random sampling. To her mind, if they were searching me there was a reason they picked ME. That confused her as much as being separated from me terrified her. She had her turn three years later when at six years old she travelled with a 12-year old cousin to visit their grandparents. I escorted them through airport security and was left untouched while the young girls were patted down. Again, she was frightened
and perhaps a bit indignant as well. (I could be projecting the indignation part.)
I also ponder the long-term impact of security screening required for all students, teachers and other workers on public school campuses in my home town. I am in no way saying there is any place for weapons on planes or campuses or that authorities should not take precautions to prevent their use, but I do wonder about the message we are sending our youth. Do they hear, “You are safe,” or “Danger is present?” Do they hear, “You are dangerous so we have to screen YOU?”
More than that, I wonder about our trajectory as a nation. If our pre-9/11 psyche is one
point, and where we are now is another point defining a line, then where will another
10 years on that line put us?
Join the conversation. In 10 years will we be a nation guided by faith in ourselves or fear of ourselves?
Copyright 2011 Stephanie Walker All rights reserved. Visit www.AcrossTraditions.com.