Here's what we can look for as the federal government implements new rules meant to thwart the likes of Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalib, the would-be pants bomber:
-- Sharp drop-offs in beverage sales as passengers find themselves barred from restrooms during the last 60 minutes of international flights.
-- Airport check-in times longer than airplane flight times.
-- An upsurge in employment for people turned on by the prospect of "patting down" strangers.
-- A decrease in human dignity, across the board.
Here 's what we likely can't look for:
-- Federal acknowledgement that young Arabic or African men deserve more official attention than do the normal riff-raff of air travel -- businessmen, grandmothers, babies, young couples from Wyoming, etc., etc.
-- Broad political recognition of a broad need for broad (meaning decisive and certainly non-compassionate) measures to discourage and punish people who want to kill Americans.
Fascinating to contemplate is the hard truth that the terrorists have beaten us. Well, not in everything, of course, but certainly in ways significant for modern life.
Everything we can't do at airports these days -- walk to the gate unimpeded, keep our shoes and clothes on at checkpoints, feel joy and fulfillment in the experience of air travel -- is owing to the terrorists. They have us handcuffed. We can't quit thinking about them lest they do something to us. In a weird way, they've won without winning
Let us contemplate how.
That terrorists aren't nice is just boilerplate -- we've always known it. That they want to kill us is the central consideration here. What do you do when people want to kill you? Generally, not enough, so dark and subterranean is the world they inhabit and hide in.
What matters most, nonetheless, is advertising them as enemies. Here is where the U. S. government -- or better said, the U. S. political process -- sometimes loses out.
The constant theme of too many journalists, bloggers and politicians since the early years of the supposed War on Terror is that Americans may not be a lot nicer than terrorists. The outcry over abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq telegraphed this viewpoint to us. The outcry merged with endless blather about "illegal" wiretaps, disregard of constitutional niceties by the Bush administration and, most of all, waterboarding and varied other "outrages" at Guantanamo.