Time to trot this one out again.
I wrote “My Terrorist Eye: Risk, the Unexpected, and the War on Terrorism” over several years in the mid-2000s. Yes, it does go on at some length about my out-of-the-blue retina detachment. Feel free to skim those parts and reflect instead on some similar experience of your own.
Sorry about the clunky link(s). Keep clicking and you’ll get to a downloadable PDF of my essay.
In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings and Friday’s “lockdown,” it seems that “whenever the word ‘terrorist’ is mentioned in this country,” as John Cassidy noted in an excellent New Yorker blog post, “reason tends to go out the window, and many other things go with it, too, such as intellectual consistency, a respect for civil liberties, and a sense of proportion.”
Is it rude to suggest that, despite all our rhetoric to the contrary, the terrorists are winning? A million people, give or take, stay inside for 12 hours because the authorities tell them to — and plenty of people outside the Boston area think that’s just fine.
In “My Terrorist Eye” I wrote:
The events of 9/11 were indeed terrifying, but it was not fear alone that led to the official “war on terror.” On September 11, 2001, the Bush administration and the U.S. Congress were forced to acknowledge, in an implacably public way, that they weren’t in complete control, that all the little games they play to create the illusion that they are in control had proved inadequate. And it freaked them out. When the shock wore off, they — and many who shared their assumption that the United States was invulnerable — reacted in anger. Someone had to pay for bringing them face-to-face with their own vulnerability, perhaps the nearest man in a turban or woman in a hijab, or the next person to declare that the destruction of the World Trade Towers didn’t nullify the Bill of Rights. The U.S. went to war with Afghanistan, then invaded Iraq. With one eye open and the other shut tight, it looked as though treating all Muslims, Muslim countries, and people with Arabic names as suspects would make us safe, or at least make us feel safer. Through the other eye it was easy to see that our safety, or the illusion of safety, was being purchased with other people’s fear. With both eyes open and mindful of our own recent experience, it wasn’t hard to see where this was leading: scared people often react, and retaliate, in anger.