What Is Vigilance?

19 July 2004

Life In America began Friday’s entries by pointing to James Lileks. This morning, he deals with the aftermath of having dealt with the Syrian band. Here’s a quote or two:

Syrian band update: it now appears that they were a Syrian band. (It’s an Insty link, which should send you to skeptics and supporters.) I am duly chastened for encouraging you to read this story and draw your own conclusions. In the future we must hew to a new rule: if you are on an airplane and you see a group of Arabic men with foreign passports work in concert, including standing up en masse and taking to the lavs during landing, you are obliged to give the give them the benefit of the doubt. Do not report your concerns to the flight attendants.

Later he continued with this:

So its a sign of frantic paranoia to ask if we should pull aside Syrians before they get on the plane. Its full-blown nutso nonsense to request that people should read the piece and decide for themselves.

Repeat to yourself: there is no threat. Freedom is Slavery! Ignorance is Wisdom! Vigilance is, uh, racism!

To some people, the very idea that a woman writes her account of being worried on a plane is tantamount to the government requiring the TSA to put a knee on the neck of anyone whose skintone trends towards the swarthy. Noted. But Ill tell you this: Id rather we err on the side of concern and inconvenience a few than wave on board four twitchy Saudis and suffer the loss of the Sears Tower. Because Im one of those nuts who thinks theres a war on. You know: a paranoid. Full blown. I see visions, and in these horrible dreams I see two towers falling. Some days I think that really happened. Time to double up on the thorazine.

James Lileks
The Bleat
July 19, 2004

What James Lileks reports is rather consistent with a few discussions I had over the weekend. There’s the notion floating that Americans are forfeiting their civil liberties right and left. I examine what I did on September 10, 2001 and what I did over the weekend and I find little difference in the amount of freedom I have. I guess there’s some way for me to view my life as existing under some oppressive regime, but the choices I make about what I do every day just don’t support the words ”oppressive” or ”regime.”

Am I willing to sacrifice something I do, buy or choose if it would prevent the loss of a city? Absolutely. There’s a war. Remember?

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