I reflect on the many things that have happened in my life in the last ten days. In a week buffered by two weekends, I flew to Cleveland to drench myself in music and hear my son sing, marveled over the lace and grace of a royal wedding, hopped over to Chicago to cheer my daughter as she danced, gasped at the meticulous annihilation of a much wanted man, presided over a terrifying week of AP exams in junior year and cackled with friends over a Mother’s day dinner. Our family had packed so much into the last many days. But had anything really changed?
As our flight taxied into San Jose’s Mineta Airport last Sunday, a burly gentleman behind me tapped the shoulder of an army officer who was seated in the row in front of me. “Hey, bro, guess what just happened? Bin Laden is dead. Check out this.” The man gave the uniformed gentleman his iPhone. Around me, within seconds, Blackberries and Droids and iPhones riddled bullets of information to their owners. A firefight of details ensued between passengers who, until then, had sat cocooned in their own thoughts. Overhead bins shot open and carry-ons tumbled out. This was the news everyone had been waiting for during the last decade.
For me, the evening felt momentous. Just four hours prior, I had been x-rayed by a machine that called itself Rapiscan. I couldn’t help wondering why the manufacturers had conjugated the word “rape” to derive the name of a denuding machine which demanded that you walk in and hold up your arms high above your head while it probed you all over with silent fingers. Earlier in the week, my son and I had smarted from the insulting banter of a security officer at Cleveland Hopkins Airport. When my son grabbed yet another basket to hold his shoes, the officer barked out an insult: “You makin’ more work for me, young man. You don’t need another tub!” Following the verbal barb, the Rapiscan at the airport also cast aspersions on my son’s character. I wanted to tell the two officers who led him away for further groping that their victim was likely heavy in unmentionable places from all that cramming for SATs and APs and that to imagine that the fruit of my loins might be an underwear bomber was a far greater sin than labeling me an underwire bomber (even though I was no more a maid in form inside my maidenform).
Given our family’s run-ins with security personnel during the week, I had only one question on my mind on the day of Osama’s obliteration. How would it change the way that I traveled from that day onwards? Would we ever again see the day we'd walk into an airport and see our loved ones off right at the gate? Could I resume carrying shampoos, creams, nail clippers, tweezers, water, yoghurt and peanut butter? Would I have to remember to wear socks in preparation for landing my feet on the stone cold floor at Security Check? Would it be possible, once again, to imagine a world without borders after ten years of feeling insecure at Security Check? Would my children ever hope to experience the even-keeled ordinariness of life in place of heightened security? Would there come a day when my anxiety over a dropping oxygen mask would surpass my fear of a fellow passenger who didn’t look anything like me?
In a week when I paced about the house like a tiger mother lapping up every detail about SEAL Team Six, my son lay like a beached seal, unaffected by the week’s tidal waves. Entangled in slippery junior year seaweed, he splayed on the sand, letting the news of the day bubble into his nose, wash over his blubber and soak into the ground. Without knowing about the Al Qaeda announcement of this morning, it seemed as if my skeptic knew, instinctively, like any jaded product of the nineties, that the more things changed, the more they stayed the same.