Came across this post today of what was apparently one of many cases of false alarms received on Sep 11, 2011. Shoshana Hebshi writes in her blog about her shock and awe experience of being racially profiled and detained in Detroit after landing from Denver.
I have to admit, that while I can empathise with Ms Hebshi’s predicament, I find this as yet another example of the ideas of Civil Liberties and Individual Freedom inadvertently becoming excuses for fragile egos and lack of tolerance for individual discomfort.
Cause, while that would certainly have been a distressing experience, there are 2 sides to every story, and here are some possible sides:
What Shoshana went through, and all the attendant “ills” like the racial profiling, are an unfortunate outcome of the times we live in. And as soon as we recognise that it is only an attempt to secure ourselves against acts like the ones in Delhi and Mumbai, and Karachi, and Bali, and Kabul…we will develop a greater acceptance of the circumstances. Are these attempts perfect? No, not at all. But its funny, sitting here in India, we always quote the US example, that at least they responded with an iron fist and there has not been a single attack on the US since 9/11.
Would I like to go through such an experience? No. But is it better than being blown into smithereens, because we were not paranoid? Is it better than a child, spouse, parent, sibling, friend meeting an untimely and horrifying end, or worse still being crippled for life? Umm, let me think about that!
And so I would like to raise another question. How much of our discomfort, outrage and anger against such situations is a result of our own fragile egos? I mean, what is this American obsession with Civil Liberties, and Rights, and Freedom? All noble constructs, but are they higher than the Greater Good? Have we distorted the meaning of all these to imply a lack of tolerance of individual inconvenience? From Shoshana’s account, while it must certainly have been a very unexpected, harrowing and uncomfortable experience, and the initial anger is absolutely justified, it does not seem like there was any intentional discomfort or pain caused, or even any rudeness or aggression on the part of the staff. They seemed to be professionals doing their job.
And what is so humiliating about a strip search as long as it is conducted professionally and is deemed necessary? Don’t we comply with medical procedures requiring the same? Even if after the procedure we find it was not necessary but just a precaution? Isn’t it the same case here? Just because WE know we are not guilty, we feel outraged and violated? Wouldn’t a realisation of the reason for the same, and a tolerance for the cause of the greater good, change one’s view about this?
To summarise, all I am saying is, while we must definitely be vigilant to ensure that the precautionary/preventive measures are not being taken too far, we also have to apply a similar vigilance to ensure that our fierce protection of our individual rights are not an outcome of bloated egos and self-importance, such that they become bigger than the Greater Good.