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Point of View: Solution: Change in system, mindset

Jan. 21, 2010

On a plane from Los Angeles to Houston, I judged another passenger.

I told myself that his man was fully capable of a terrorist act.

I have always thought I was above that. I believed, without a shadow of a doubt, that I could never be one of those people.

But on my flight home from visiting my mom in Hawaii, I became the exact type of person I told myself I would never understand -- a profiler.

I don't know if everyone does it and only a few are outspoken or if only a minority of the population deals with it -- but profiling never seemed innate to me. I always questioned how anyone was capable of thinking the worst of someone based purely on skin colors or prejudices.

As I sat one row in front of the person I judged, I thought to myself: "I wonder what people think about me on this plane. Do they think I am a possible terrorist? Do they want to know where I am going just to verify my non-terrorist status?"

That's when the answer to how someone could profile came to me. I discovered that judging someone is simple. We are all capable of profiling because we are a selfish species. We care about our needs and ourselves first. At the top of the needs list: safety.

Prior to my awful profiling scenario, I thought that terrorism only affected me through bombings and threats. I had never recognized that terrorists affected my everyday life by simply existing.

Then I realized why I was so unnerved on my plane ride home. I had no trust in the security system everyone had to go through before boarding my plane. No trust produces zero confidence. I had no trust in the workers, I had no trust in the rules or regulations -- all I had was fear.

A man boarded a plane in Amsterdam with explosive materials strapped to his clothes. It appears that he had every intention to blow up that plane upon its landing in Detroit. Luckily for those aboard, and for all of America, the man failed to physically harm anyone but himself on Christmas day.

Both the system and our mindsets have to change.

It would be foolish to live life waiting for horrific events to take place before enforcing specific security measures. Our mindsets must change. Security officials promote the reporting of any suspicious activity.

Unfortunately, acts of terror now set the standards for what Americans view as suspicious activity. If a man was in the lavatory of an airplane for one hour before attempting to blow up a plane -- any person that spends a lengthy amount of time in the on-board restroom will seem suspicious.

If a terrorism act occurred on a greyhound bus -- extra measures would be taken for security and more people would be on edge while taking their next vacation via bus.

We must not forget that security officials are, in fact, human. The human race quickly becomes complacent. We are not known for being able to have unwavering attention. We have fallen prey to terrorist attacks because our inherent complacency destroys security measures.

Acts of terrorism should not be reminders to beef up security. We must strive to eradicate contentment in any security system.

A widespread, continuous effort to keep security running effectively and efficiently should be the goal of all organizations.

All threats should be taken seriously. If the Yemeni man's father called to report suspicious activity of his son -- why was nothing done?

My life -- our lives -- are in the hands of those sworn to protect us. A simple investigation may have eclipsed the attempted bombing in Detroit before the man ever made it to the airport.

Terrorism is the reason I have yet to board a plane since 9/11 void of memories. I constantly think of the horror I sat and watched through my television on the night when terror struck America.

Our society has been scared and scarred. We must begin to place trust in our systems. We must begin to heal and grow.

But, before we begin to wholeheartedly trust, we must push for security measures and regulations that are consistently up to par.

Terrorism is an unfortunate, sorrowful and evil part of our lives, but we must not fall victim to the mind tricks these attacks have on us.

We cannot allow terrorists to brood racial or religious contempt in our melting pot of a country. America is ours to protect. From the green grass to the blue sky -- it is ours.

We cannot place more trust in terrorists than in ourselves.

When that happens, hope is lost.

Nick Dean is an Austin sophomore majoring in journalism and political science. He is the news editor for the Baylor Lariat.