Paranoia & Fear on Planes in Post-9/11 America

I flew from Los Angeles to St. Paul, Minnesota to see my aunt in 2010. She was taking me to Washington DC, but first we wanted to enjoy a few days in the twin cities before heading to the nation’s capital. On the plane I read The Communist Manifesto. I had recently became interested in leftist politics and had been reading Gore Vidal before moving on to the infamous little red book. Like a magnet, it attracted a conversation with the couple next to me.

“You know that is responsible for the deaths of over 50 million people,” said the otherwise affable husband.

I replied with a slew of awkward defense. “I just wanted to see for myself,” I lied. “Don’t worry, I’m not a bleeding-heart communist.” I was younger then, and did a terrible job of sticking up for myself and my beliefs, not even attempting to explain the tenets of studying various economic doctrines or that are plenty of valuable ideas to learn from Marx and Engel’s work.

He laughed. “Well, I’ll sleep better at night,” he said. His bias was quickly apparent.

His wife, who was sitting next to him, was German. “We were in Berlin when the wall fell in ’89.” Despite their obvious paranoid indoctrination, they were very nice people.

After landing in St. Paul, a burger stuffed with molten cheese, gorging myself at an Italian deli, visiting the house of F. Scott Fitzgerald, buying records at Electric Fetus, and seeing Santana on a whim, we were off to Washington DC for the fourth of July.

I was younger then, and terribly afraid of flying. This, however, is no excuse for what I’m about to say. A Muslim family boarded the plan and with an incredibly guilty, self-loathing fear of someone bombing DC with the plane I was on, I became fully aware of my indoctrination as a child of the 9/11 era.

I hated myself for the thought that entered my head and it was quickly struck down in a matter of seconds. We, no matter how much we despise it, are a product of our horrible, terrible, socialization. They have taught us to be paranoid. They taught us to be afraid of Muslims the same way they taught us to be afraid of communists. The most depressing part, though, is how so few people realize that their blind, ignorant anger is a fabricated fear for political ends.

Needless to say, our plane made it safely to Washington DC, and we were able to visit many museums including the National Holocaust Museum which told the story of prejudice, hate, and fear that ended up in the deaths of over 11 million people.

Over the monolith of the Washington Monument, we watched a colorful display of explosions in the sky with thousands of people of every color, religion, and political orientation.


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