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Giving up search privacy an easy sacrifice in exchange for freedom

| Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2006

Last week, I had to fly one day after the airline-terrorism plot was foiled. After watching several news reports that detailed stringent carry-on luggage restrictions and predicted four-hour waits at security checkpoints, I was more than a little nervous during the drive to the airport.

I always have been a worrier, especially when it comes to flying -- something about launching a hunk of metal carrying a hundred or more people and their luggage into thin air never really sat well with me. The terrorism involving aviation certainly hasn't made the process much easier.

But last summer, I took a course entitled "The History of Terrorism," and something the professor said stuck with me. He commented that acts of terrorism are planned to create chaos, to instill a fear in people that they personally could be next and that it could be anyone, anywhere, at any time. The terrorists win when people are terrified. The way to fight it, he proposed, was to act in the face of fear -- to adapt to the situation as needed, and then continue daily routines.

I saw people doing exactly that when I arrived at the Houston airport. Passengers calmly were subjecting themselves to security checks, taking off their shoes and walking barefoot through the metal detectors, dumping out water bottles, handing over baby formulas for inspection, all without a word of complaint. Most people were chatting with strangers, commenting that it was better to have restrictions and travel safely, than to not have regulations and be at risk.

I pleasantly was surprised at this general attitude, given that I had heard reporters and read columns that suggested these regulations are impositions on our freedom, that to allow someone to search your bag and person is a violation of privacy. I heard an airline passenger on television noting how it was ridiculous that she wasn't about to take her contact solution aboard.

I can see that argument, sort of -- the idea that the terrorists seemingly are winning by causing us these extra hassles and stricter regulations -- but I disagree with it completely. What American in history hasn't had to compromise or sacrifice for freedom• Compared to generations that have been asked to die for the continuance of American liberty, we are getting off fairly easy by simply having to pack toiletries in a checked bag.

We live in scary times, and, therefore, it is only natural to have the reactions of fear or annoyance. But I think that it's during times such as these that we really will see the strength of our country. We have choices to make. We can stay in our homes, travel by car and live moment by frightened moment. We can protest as we are asked to throw away or check liquids into our luggage, as we are patted down, as strangers search through our personal possessions.

Or we can accept, as so many generations before us, that freedom has a price. We can adapt to the situation and continue our daily routines. We can be cautious and remain undeterred from the course of our lives.

I think the truth is that all of us -- whether soldier or civilian -- have a role to play in "winning" the war on terrorism. For some of us, the price comes higher than others. But we all have to pay a toll.

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