Re-Open Reagan National Airport

Re-Open Reagan National Airport

Open The Airports!

By Raywat Deonandan

Sep 15, 2001

An obsession with terrorism infects the Western world this week, with no sign of letting up anytime soon. Much saber-rattling ensues, with calls across America for instant retaliation against the Taliban or other groups who might be harbouring Usama bin Laden. The frequent allusions to Pearl Harbor are understandable, but are becoming nauseating in their mounting irrationality. The famous quote about Pearl Habor having waked a sleeping giant and filled him with resolve has been paraphrased by every well-meaning American politician struggling to say something important during his few allotted minutes of television time.

As a Canadian, my perspective is more detached and, some would argue, less valid than that of Americans closer to Ground Zero. But as a young professional about to relocate to Washington DC, my opinion takes on a definitive personal resonance flavoured with nervousness and apprehension. And as a man of colour, specifically a man of brown skin and South Asian descent, I grow wary of the inevitable backlash against all things vaguely Arab and all things that are unlike the mainstream American stereotype of white-skinned Christianity.

I therefore couch my arguments with apologetic caveats, betraying my fearful awareness of the violent emotional core that lies within the heart of present American grief and outrage. In Canada, Islamic mosques have suffered gunfire and a Hindu temple has been firebombed. In Australia, Muslim children have been beaten by their Christian compatriots. And in the USA, Muslim shopkeepers have been taunted and abused, and a Sikh cabdriver pulled from his vehicle and assaulted. It cannot be stressed enough that the attacks on the World Trade Center and on the Pentagon were perpetrated for political purpose by individuals who use religion as an afterthought of rationalization. But the American psyche, born of Revolution, requires a nation or a people on which to heap retribution. Hence all brown-skinned people are now at risk.

Much of the rhetoric being put forward by American leaders, consumed with fervour by the American public, concerns a war on terrorism that will result in the elimination of such activities from the world stage. Let us be clear: terrorism has existed for centuries, and will never go away. American military action can be applied to bring bin Laden to justice and to eliminate the machinery of his organization. It cannot remove the philosophical core from which suicide bombings originate.

That core exists because of the marginalisation of communities around the world. Whether or not that marginalisation resulted from the policies of the USA and its allies is irrelevant; the populations of such communities will always identify the worlds biggest power brokers as being the indirect cause of their distress. To truly minimize terrorism in coming years, our attention should be applied to areas outside of military action and security. Yes, the present generation of fanatics are probably beyond the call of rational negotiation. Hence, their machinery to make war against innocent targets must be excised without hesitation. But a long-term solution can only be achieved through more compassionate and responsible policies with regard to Western influence in potentially unstable regions, lest we continue to generate future generations of suicide bombers.

As I write this, I await confirmation from my new employers in DC that Im still on schedule to begin working there on October 1st. Unfortunately, Reagan National Airport, the central airport of the city, remains closed. There is grumbling that they may never re-open it, due to its proximity to both the Pentagon and the White House. The airport was one of the citys selling points to me, as it represents an easy way to back to Toronto quickly and with minimal fuss. Im frustrated that this wave of paranoia may result in the airports closing, as this will in no way make the city safer. Lets face it, if a lunatic is truly intent on destroying the White House, all he needs do is load up an ultra-light with TNT, launch it from his front lawn and crash it into the building no hijacking necessary. The closing of airports just feeds the growing sentiment of reactionism, racism and anger, and plays directly into the hands of those who wish us nothing but terror.

Raywat Deonandan is an owner of The Podium and an epidemiologist about to relocate to Washington DC, site of one of the recent terrorist bombings.