I was booked on a flight from Montreal to Edmonton on the Friday following the terrorist attacks. Having followed the troubling events on television for three days straight, I was less than eager to head to an airport, much less get on a plane. Dorval airport was like a ghost town. Still no flights to the United States. I was relieved and surprised to find it one of the easiest days of travel that I’ve experienced in some time. I was also disappointed to see so many flaws in airport security. There was a stronger police presence, and carry-on luggage was being ‘searched for knives, scissors and the like, but there were still many openings for foul play.
While passengers had to present photo identification at the ticket counter in order to be issued with boarding passes, we never had to show i.d. to anyone again. Not at the security gate, nor at the boarding gate. Anyone with a boarding pass could have boarded a flight. Though the U.S. is the nation that was directly attacked, it would be a huge mistake to operate under the notion that we are somehow safer in Canada. If planes were to become easier to highjack in Canada, terrorists could simply commandeer a Vancouver to Toronto flight and steer it into Detroit or Chicago. Borders mean little to international terrorists.
My feelings of insecurity were magnified that day by noises coming from the far right of America. Rev. Jerry Falwell and 700 Club host Pat Robertson basically came out and said that America got what it deserved. An interesting stance for influential religious leaders to take. Fallwell and Robertson weren’t referring to America’s atrocious foreign policy, it’s presence in the Persian Gulf, or it’s involvement in the support and training of men like Osama bin Laden to be used to bring down old foes like the now-defunct U.S.S.R. Apparently, America deserved what it got because of its godlessness. “God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve,” Falwell told Robertson on the 700 Club the day after the attack.
Falwell went on: “The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), People for the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America – I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.’”
Falwell and Robertson appear to be unwittingly supporting the Jihad against America. Muslim religious extremists and Christian religious extremists appear to share the same opinion – that God is making America pay. Is Falwell actually endorsing the Jihad? Are the Taliban actually reading the same bible? Rubbish.
The Falwell quote followed a rather nasty column by conservative Ann Coulter, who wrote “We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now. We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.” Excuse me? Are we back in the Crusades? What year is this? Hello?
Comments like these make it easier to understand the insane and misguided racial backlash that has been occuring all over the place. Muslim children are being called terrorists at school. A Muslim woman is approached while waiting for a subway in Toronto and told by another woman that she would shoot her dead if she had a gun. In the blind ignorance that is racism anyone who even remotely resembles a Muslim or Arab (meaning pretty well anyone foreign looking or with dark skin) becomes a target for mob justice. Hindus and Sikhs, among others, have suddenly found themselves the victims of a series of hate crimes running from verbal abuse, to arson, to murder. Does anyone read history anymore? Haven’t Canada and the United States apologized for the horrible way in which Japanese North Americans were treated during World War II?
Was this the greatest tragedy to have ever taken place in America? No. Native Americans have seen worse, as have African Americans who struggled through slavery. People seem to have selective amnesia when it comes to facing the nastier aspects of one’s history. The shocking crimes that were committed on September 11th have had a devastating affect on people everywhere, especially those who lost lives and loved ones. Justice must be served and the safety of people must be protected, but history must be respected or it will be repeated. This is not a holy war. It is not about neighbour against neighbour, Muslim against Christian. Though I admire the restraint shown so far by the Bush administration, who seem to understand that a “war on terrorism” won’t be won by bombing the tar out of the Middle East, I still fear the staunch sense of self-righteousness that often accompanies hardcore patriotism. I’m all for rooting out terrorism wherever it may stem from, but I see little sense in committing criminal acts of intolerance in the name of fighting terrorism.