Yesterday I flew home to Toronto from Daytona Beach, where I spent Christmas with my wife and her mom. While a personally exciting/anxiety-creating experience under the best of circumstances, the attempted destruction of a flight the day before did the following, so far as I could observe: it caused further delays (about three hours in my case); TSA workers had more to handle; and passengers dealt with it. There was only a little grumbling, there were even jokes.
Nice going, al-Qaeda.
What the attempt failed to do was intimidate. It proves al-Qaeda loyalists are insane, in that they keep repeating the same action in hopes of a different outcome. Yesterday, we flew. A terrorist with an IED wasn’t enough to intimidate us. We flew anyway. And we’ll keep flying. And al-Qaeda can go fuck itself.
Of course, it inconvenienced us at a high-traffic time of year. The people with whom I flew, Americans, Canadians, Europeans, Asians, people from everywhere; Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, agnostics, etc., alike, simply dealt with it. Children played in the customs line, parents acknowledged each other and the beauty of those children; in the “common-feeder line” I kept encountering the same families, who dealt with the situation by simply plowing further, one step at a time. The attempted attack, though jarring, had no bearing whatsoever on them.
And neither should it have. Abdulmutallab’s now in hospital, burned for his trouble after the device failed. Inhumane as it might sound, my reaction is: Good for him. He’s a piece of shit, led by high-functioning lunatics. I hope Abdulmutallab recovers, though—recovers to be tried, convicted, and jailed forever as a lesson to his bosses: You fuckers are next. You’re free today. Maybe you’ll be free tomorrow. But your day’s coming. And you might well not survive it.
And so we flew, delayed but otherwise unencumbered by the events in Detroit. My day had started early, so by the time we took off from Miami I strapped on my iPod, set it to shuffle, and promptly fell asleep for the entirety of the flight. Next thing I knew, I heard the flight attendant announcing our imminent arrival. Just like that.
So this is our “new normal.” So what? I found the weather in Toronto a much larger adjustment than anything al-Qaeda caused. They failed, folks. Now, we all know they’ll try again. They’re just like that; they don’t understand their position’s untenable, that there’s nowhere for them to go except to dust. All the same, they keep trying, like lunatics. They’ll succeed in inconveniencing the rest of us in the process, but intimidation? That won’t happen. In fact, the more active they become, the more the rest of us steel our resolve. That won’t change.
That’s the failure of al-Qaeda, of terrorism in general. Londoners continued to use mass transit after the bombings, New Yorkers and Washingtonians went back to work after 9/11, and people in general continued to fly; al-Qaeda has failed because terrorism-as-strategy does not translate into legitimacy or authority. Look at the lessons of Hamas, which had to renounce terror in order to achieve recognition by the community of nations. If Osama, let’s say, had run for elected office and won, that would’ve changed everything (assuming he could win anything, anywhere, to say nothing of Saudi Arabia); if like-minded people were to run for office in their countries and win, that would change everything. Until that day, al-Qaeda is a failure.
Yesterday, we flew. We weren’t afraid. Osama and his students did not matter. Oh, I was happy to be home; our cats were fine, the world inside our four walls the same. Osama and his students failed to scare us. For them, the only future options are capture or death. They made that choice themselves.