reappropriate

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Flying with Liquids

So, after the capture of a terrorist organization that was planning to bomb airplanes with liquid explosives, American flight officials have banned any items that are liquid or gel-based, for fear that they might also contain liquid explosives. Stories are filtering in of people having all kinds of items confiscated, from makeup to Nalgene bottles with drinking fountain water, to one passenger who emailed to CNN saying that they were not allowed to board their flight because their shoes supposedly contained gel insoles. I have to wonder why flight officials insist on this reactionary tactic of banning items after plans are found to exploit those items. It's not like liquid explosives are something new, never having before been seen by the eyes of man; so why are we so quick to get into a panic now that it's discovered that terrorists have, y'know, creativity? Same with the shoe bomber guy -- so one guy wants to try and light explosives in his shoes, and that's when we decide passengers should pad sockless through security checkpoints? If flight security were serious, they should have forseen these possibilities and forbid these items a long time ago. (And I really don't get all the people who claim to be terrified to fly now. What changed between this week and last week? Only your awareness that explosives could come in liquid form; the actual risks are no greater now than they were last month.) But then again, flight officials can't foresee every possibility. Frankly, if you're going to sneak explosives into an airplane, there are probably countless ways you could do it (I'm not condoning doing this, by the way! Don't deport me, government guys!), relying on the precedent being set that as long as you're the first person to think of the idea, they won't be checking your newly devised hidey-hole. One emailer to CNN remarked snidely, "where does it stop? At this rate, air travel will eventually mean traveling stark naked with no luggage." Sounds like an idea we're approaching, but I'm sure we can all imagine ways to sneak explosives in even if we were all to travel under those conditions. And by the way, call me crazy, but isn't there a way to detect explosives that would be just as easy and perhaps less wasteful than just throwing out all these items? Couldn't we devise quick chemical tests that would allow us to sample the liquid item for common trace explosives in the same amount of time it would take to do that silly shoe check? I mean, there is pretty much one common element to all liquid explosives -- they explode. I'm sure there's some way we can take advantage of that to allow for fast testing of suspicious materials. The war on terror has thus far been incredibly reactionary, trying to address the symptoms of a problem rather than trying to deal with the reason why people resort to terrorism as a tactic in the first place. We simply cannot prevent all forms of terrorism by systematically implementing new security measures based on the insane ideas we catch wind of -- there are simply too many ideas yet to be tested by terrorists. Instead, we need to consider other ways of protecting civilians that involve addressing terrorists directly; after all, terrorists are desperate men with an insane purpose and a desire to be heard. I'm not saying we should appease terrorists, but we certainly can avoid terrorist action by listening to these organization before they become so frustrated they actually imagine that blowing up innocents will help further their cause. And yet, here we are preventing mothers of infants from bringing bottles of breast milk onto airplanes for their starving children. We are preventing the elderly from bringing water with which to down their life-saving medications. We are filling landfills with perfectly good yet meaninglessly discarded personal hygiene products being confiscated at airports nationwide. (With this entire issue, I kind of want to make the tongue-in-cheek remark that people are made up of 60% water.) Call me crazy, but doesn't this seem like if one of the stated goals of a terrorist is to provoke terror, that this barely contained hysteria is an indication that they are "winning"? Meanwhile, you have irate Americans who see the confiscation of liquid items at airports as a desperate necessity. They are the ones who email CNN and call those who object to having their personal items discarded "whiners" and "complainers" who should just "thank God that they are alive". Reading over the emails, many say that these personal hygiene items are easily replacable: one wrote in to say, "for the people complaining about having to throw away toothpaste, mouthwash, lotion, etc. Come on people! Do you really think your safety is worth keeping less than $10 worth of toiletries?" So many people on that side of this issue seem to be basking in their privilege, in which "$10 of items" (and who are we kidding, if we're talking about toothpaste, mouthwash, lotion, contact solution and other items, we're easily talking over $20 in today's economy) is easily recovered. What we're basically saying is that if you're so poor that you can't afford to replace these items, you have no business flying (as I know I wouldn't readily be able to). Consider also the fact that the poor are being denied their liquid items, and yet in-flight meals are no longer complimentary. So, the poor, aside from having to re-purchase toiletries once they land will also have to starve during flights that can sometimes take all afternoon without even being able to bring some water with them to help quench the thirst? With these regulations, we've just made flying almost prohibitively expensive for those in the low-income bracket. At bare minimum, if we're going to be taking people's personal items from them, shouldn't airlines or the federal government replace those items when you land? I mean, doesn't anyone else feel like they're being jacked here? Also, we're only hearing from the able-bodied passengers -- the assumption that we're only talking about toiletries is ludicrous and it's disgusting to read so many commentaries that presume that a bottle of water is a luxury and not a necessity for some whose health depends on ready access to liquids. We grumbled but tolerated it when our loved ones were no longer able to see us off at the gate (I've had several tearful farewells with electroman at security checkpoints -- it doesn't seem like much, but being able to watch him go into the airplane would've made a world of difference during those times). We were equally willing to accept the shoe checks and the carry-on baggage limitations. But with this liquid restriction, could someone please stop and think about the insanity and the implicit privilege of this argument? Not every American flyer is an able-bodied, middle-class, non-parent, and these rules are disproportionately affecting those who don't fit into that mould. Before you all say I'm on the side of terrorism, let me issue the standard disclaimer: I don't believe Americans can or should be blowed up while flying. I support preventing violence against all innocents, worldwide, including stopping terrorist action. I just think we need to address this issue rationally, not like a bunch of chickens running around with our heads recently severed, wasting billions of dollars on measures that seem to be designed more to make Americans feel safe than to really do anything about stopping terrorism. And with that, let the "you are un-American" hate-mail floodgates open.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

correct me if i'm wrong, but i thought the requirement was to either throw away the liquids OR store them in your checked baggage. in which case, it would be annoying, but not financially unfair to deny carry-on liquids.

granted, this doesn't answer the question of 'what if i'm not planning to check any baggage'?...

8/13/2006 10:00:00 PM  
Anonymous nonwhiteperson said...

The war on terror has thus far been incredibly reactionary, trying to address the symptoms of a problem rather than trying to deal with the reason why people resort to terrorism as a tactic in the first place...we need to consider other ways of protecting civilians that involve addressing terrorists directly; after all, terrorists are desperate men with an insane purpose and a desire to be heard. I'm not saying we should appease terrorists, but we certainly can avoid terrorist action by listening to these organization before they become so frustrated they actually imagine that blowing up innocents will help further their cause.

People also seem to forget that OBL himself said in his videotape immediately before the 2004 Election that he orchestrated 9-11 because of the West’s anti-Muslim policies in Palestine and Lebanon. Now we’ve egged on Israel to bomb Lebanon. That will certainly help our “war on terror”. People also seem to forget that Muslim countries have no intention of taking over the West if that were even remotely possible. Some commentary from Cenk Uygur

http://www.theyoungturks.com/story/2006/8/12/19559/2308

8/13/2006 11:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very persuasive post.

8/14/2006 08:49:00 AM  
Anonymous gatamala said...

Jenn, you are 100% correct!!!!

The whole point of terrorism is for fear to dominate your entire manner of thinking. Reactionary thoughts/behavior is the desired end result!!

You are spot on regarding the price of toiletries & water. I never check luggage & being I have a penchant for luxury toiletries, I'd be shit out of luck. :) I also take meds that need large amounts of water and have the side effect of being diuretics & leave me parched. At any rate, the airlines will probably use this opportunity to make a few bucks anyway.

Besides, I'm damn close to the point where I'm unwilling to give up anymore conveniences. I refuse to have my life dictated by someone abroad and will not be a slave to terrorism.

hahahaha about the body being 60% water and the gel insoles! I was thinking, what if the terrorists invent a device that can be inserted vaginally/anally and detonated with a combination of KY and an iPod?????

[[UHH & YEAH I made a crass joke about terrorism! I do it all the time! I work in downtown D.C. and pass the Pentagon 2x a day on the Metro (they always bust out w/ the assault rifles after a terrorist attack somewhere), so don't give me an shit about 'how would you feel' or 'you don't care about America' I could get blown up any minute so spare me!!!]]

8/14/2006 03:50:00 PM  
Anonymous sa@bonasi.com said...

I don't believe Americans can or should be blowed up while flying.

That's always good ta here. Mind if I link ya?

8/14/2006 10:48:00 PM  
Blogger Chan Thai Long said...

You are un-American.

8/16/2006 12:04:00 AM  

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