A few months ago, I heard a story about the township of Stanstead, which sits between (Quebec, Canada) and the Derby Line(Vermont, U.S.). The U.S./Canadian residents of the township have shared single facilities for centuries, most notably, an opera house-library and streets. Sadly, thanks to the fear of terrorism, the privilege of meandering carelessly across the border has been taken away.
Since May 2009, the U.S. Homeland Security has been pushing tougher travel restrictions. Residents must now go through customs and use valid passports, and register with border guards. Most recently, many streets have been blockaded. And surveillance is everywhere.
The case of Stanstead is extreme, perhaps, but cases like this will become more frequent in my lifetime, as long as terrorism is a very serious and immediate threat to our lives. The failed Christmas Day hijacking of a Delta plane by Nigerian Al Qaeda member Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab will only result in increased harassment at the border. I, for one, don’t want to hear people complain about it. Extremism is matched only by extremism, after all. When terrorists threaten to blow things up, our government reacts.
Effective today, the U.S. has already released a list of countries on its terrorist watch list, and not coincidentally, most of them are Muslim countries. They are Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria and Cuba. I am not exactly sure why Cuba is there, but not Egypt or Jordan. Anyway, this is obviously a case of religious/ethnic profiling, but let us not talk distractedly now. It’s also common sense.
Terrorism is not limited to Muslims. Other religions, cults and cultures practice it along with martyrdom. I understand that most Muslims are peaceful and respectful people. But, this does not change the fact that the majority of martyrs/suicidal bombers are Muslims. The 9/11 hijackers were Muslims, as were many other suicide bombers in Europe and the Middle East. The Toronto 18 were Muslims. The London subway bombers were Muslim. The men who invaded the home of the Danish cartoonist and creator of the image of Mohammad that stirred violent protests some three years ago were Muslim, also. As were the Beslan rebels, who killed 186 children in 2004.
It seems strapping bombs to oneself and jumping on a plane, train or automobile has become the martyr’s way. It’s senseless and foolish, but it’s effective in injuring innocent people. These would-be terrorists are crude and vicious, even once the cartoon definition of evil is checked.
I know many people long for a pre-2001 world when the term terrorism was an obscure word with little meaning in the west and Osama Bin Laden wasn’t the most feared name in the world, but sadly, our world has changed. The case of Stanstead is a perfect example of how a way of life known for hundreds of years can be disrupted. When I heard the passengers wrestled the Nigerian hijacker, I felt proud that people had fought back.
Our world may never have been perfect in the first place, but it’s far better than a world of tyranny and extremism. We may never return to the way it used to be prior to 9/11, but it doesn’t mean we have to sit back and watch lunatics destroy it. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean we have to resort to the madness and fervor, exemplified so well in The Dark Knight (2008), either. I hope we don’t have to, but if profiling and tightening border security is how we protect out existence, I am willing to accept them, even if I am one of the people being profiled or harassed.