Democracy And Terrorism

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Fallow follows up on a point I made yesterday in the flying while brownish post:


Someday, inevitably, there will be another terrorist-style attack involving air travel. We know that just as we know that someday there will be another schoolyard mass shooting, and that in the typical American day around 50 people will be murdered and around twice that many will be killed in car crashes, many by drunks. (And just as we know that there will not be "another 9/11," because hijackers will never again be allowed to fly a plane into a skyscraper. If the passengers don't stop them, the Air Force will.) 

We know of those certainties but understand that the means of preventing them are either impractical -- don't let anyone drive -- or politically or socially unacceptable (see: the NRA). Somehow we treat anything scare-labeled as "terrorism," and above all anything involving airplanes, as a separate category. So even those politicians who might want to challenge security-state thinking don't dare take the risk. All the more so with Democrats, who can't afford to seem in any way "weak."

I think this a really important point. Yesterday I argued in the post, and in comments, that there was nothing anti-democratic about a current climate regarding air travel. More than a nefarious plot hatched by nefarious politicians, it's actually an expression of significant portion of the American electorate. A slackening of security followed by a terrorist attack would be a nightmare for the party in power.

I'm doubling down on this because I think there's a perception that merely empowering "the people" is a good thing. But power should be partnered by education, and in this particular business education falls on the shoulders of activists, dissidents, and those of us who really would like a more a realistic American electorate. 

Simply blaming politicians allows us to escape the discomfiting reality that TSA is an expression of a kind phobic populism, that most people don't really know what The Patriot Act actually is. I'm not blind to the difficulties of this job. But I think we should understand that democracy extends beyond the voting booth. 

An obsessive focus on politicians is myopic. The death penalty debate doesn't exist to frustrate Rick Perry's political ambitions. People matter.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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