Shoshana Hebshi’s 9/11 ordeal – Over zealous security or a fragile ego?

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.


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12 comments on “Shoshana Hebshi’s 9/11 ordeal – Over zealous security or a fragile ego?
  1. Lisa Simeone says:

    You are a coward. This excuse-making for the brutal overreaction of a paranoid U.S. public is disgusting.

    • Vikas Tandon says:

      Thanks Lisa. All I will say is look at the same situation from the eyes of a person who has lost a loved one in a terrorist attack. We are assuming that the person who sounded an alert was not such a victim.

      • Lisa Simeone says:

        Then you are making a huge assumption. Especially given the almost-countless similar episodes on planes recently because of passenger hysteria.

        I don’t think living in a constant state of fear is healthy, for a human being or for a state. The U.S. is using fear to control its citizens, and millions of them are playing right into its hands. These kinds of abuses — which, I might add, are routinely perpetrated on people of color — are only going to get worse. Those of us who’ve been following the expansion of the National Security State know this.

      • Vikas Tandon says:

        Lisa, there are 2 issues here. The paranoia, racial profiling, fear, jumpiness, assumptive accusations – they all need to be addressed. As I mentioned in my post, the responses are not perfect and there is certainly room for improvement.

        What I am taking exception to is the lack of patience and tolerance while the system is making its efforts. Sure ms heshbi’s situation is not desirable. But seen in the light of the consequence of NOT heeding a genuine warning, this is a minor inconvenience. And if this was a case of an individual attacking her on the street for instance on account of her race, that is certainly not to be tolerated. But this was the police doing their job, and by her own account, very professionally at that.

    • vjb says:

      Lisa, zip it. Pick up a rifle and join the thousands of young American men and women overseas…fighting so you can have the things other nations can only dream of. You ever lived in Iraq…or Afganistan…or any third world countries? I didn’t think so. Just the same, the police are just doing their job…always in harms way. Mr. Tandon, great post.

  2. Akash says:

    @Lisa – Easy to call it an overreaction when you are able to live your life peacefully with pretty much ZERO terror activity in the US since 9/11. Pretty judgmental of you to call this guy a coward. Its also obvious that you have no knowledge of the context that this was written in. You feel outrage because you have that privilege and life in a safe haven. We’d give an arm and a leg to feel safe every time we step onto a train in bombay

  3. “And what is so humiliating about a strip search as long as it is conducted professionally and is deemed necessary?”

    You should really put that on a T-shirt, it’s so precious!

  4. db says:

    Change in view? Perhaps Change in Fact’s? Never

    someone wrote -“this was the police doing there job…”

    There in lies the problem! An example of how warped the truth becomes.
    It was flight attendants who raised the alert.

    Next thing you know, amusement park employee’s will beable to cull-out citizens for suspicious behavior.

    – Don’t we comply with medical procedures requiring the same?

    In fact, no, I can chose not to comply with a medical procedure that I’m uncomfortable or uncertain.

  5. George P Burdell says:

    Laws in the USA are based on a presumption of citizen innocence until proven guilty by a lawful authority. Law enforcers are required to provide probable cause before arresting a citizen in the US. If this person’s account is factual (and there’s no way of knowing at this time), the police were over-reacting by forcefully detaining and strip-searching this woman. I’m sorry that personal freedom is such a stretch for Indian citizens. Submitting to unneccessary force, even justified by the criminal actions of others, is something that hundreds of thousands of US soldiers have fought and died to protect our country against. We are free because we are willing to stand up for our liberties against aggressors, both foreign and domestic.

  6. David says:

    While I agree that there was a complete overreaction of the authorities and that she was profiled based on her appearance, however it does beg the question that 10 years later, if people of middle eastern descent feel their are being prejudiced upon based on their appearance, then perhaps they should stand up for themselves and turn in these muslim fanaticals that are warping the true meaning of the religion.

  7. RL says:

    Vikas Tandon sounds like a spineless coward, which should qualify him for a TSA job or burger flipper.

    I’m hoping Ms.Hebshi sues everyone involved.

  8. Anaun Emus says:

    Right. So people would rather not have the embarassment of being stripped nude, but would accept being blown to smithereens. I think THAT is precious! Hope @benwbrum already has that on his T!

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