This is more a personal reflection than anything political, but I do have a bit of political commentary at the end just to keep things interesting…

I used to love to fly. My mother hated it…perhaps that’s why I loved it. I would sit next to the window and gaze down at the mountains that looked like carpeted lumps, the highways that looked like the squiggles I’d draw in an attempt to be artistic, the cars that were even smaller than the Matchbox vehicles my brother and I played with, and the houses that looked like Monopoly houses. (I especially loved the homes with swimming pools, those tiny dots of blue.)

Mom would sit on the aisle, hands gripping the seat armrests for dear life — I don’t know how she ever made it to Europe and back when I was only 7; perhaps only sheer force of will or perhaps liquid courage (or maybe a little of both).
Then came September 11, 2001 — and as the current President is fond of saying, “9/11 changed everything.” The thought of flying caused me to tremble. I imagined myself on a plane heading towards certain disaster…what would be my reaction? How would I say goodbye to those I loved? Hell, how could I stand the embarrassment of family members seeing the disaster area known as my apartment? (Okay, I’m shallow, so sue me…)

A couple of years passed. I became active on some forums on the Internet…and one person proposed a group get-together; she was taking her brother to Las Vegas for his birthday and thought it would be a great chance for folks to meet up.

Great idea…then I did some research. While I could technically take Amtrak and bus there, it would be far easier to fly. Easier, yes…except on my psyche.

I approached the spouse with the idea, hoping he would veto it and I’d have a built-in excuse. “Sounds fun…go for it!” was his response. So much for his help…

Swallowing my fear, I booked the flight to Vegas. I hugged and kissed my loving spouse farewell as he left for work that morning, certain I would not see him again this side of the Pearly Gates.

Okay, chalk up one point in the Dead Wrong in Public competition. No problems, other than drinking waaaaay too many Lemon Drop martinis (those little buggers are addictive!) and staying up too late talking politics.

Fast forward two years. I’m active on more political sites, including BooTrib, but still have a fear of flying — that fear causing me to decide against a trip to Washington DC for The March. When a get-together of California Tribbers is suggested, I book a flight to San Diego before I can talk myself out of it; thanks to my mother going off to that Great Cruise Ship In The Sky, we were a great deal more financially content. I knew that I could get there just as easily by taking the train, but knowing the reputation of Amtrak’s Coast Starlight (commonly known in railfan parlance as “The Starlate“), I decided to fly instead.

The flight was a bit more problematic — a little more turbulence, causing me to worry more about crashing out of the sky than black-masked terrorists taking the plane over. Besides, the aisles were so narrow they’d never make it past the beverage cart to the cockpit.

Had a wonderful time in Del Mar, and returned home more or less in one piece (other than a sore back from lugging my laptop around).

The final step was this past vacation — traveling to the Northwest with the spouse. On the trip home, I once again marveled at the scenery — the sights of Mt. Rainier and other snowcapped peaks through the window made me wish I’d kept my camera handy. Once again I marveled at the landscape below, the bare hillsides and flat areas that looked like they’d never been besmirched by mankind. And as we reached more populous areas, I saw homes and swimming pools, schools and ballfields, parks and businesses. The spouse took my hand on final approach to reassure me…but it wasn’t totally necessary. The joy of flying had returned.

And one other thing returned — the realization that I can no longer live in fear of what might happen. I can’t let that fear keep me from enjoying life. I can’t stay home out of fear that some unknown stranger will grab me and rape me. I can’t stay off BART out of fear that some terrorist is going to plant Sarin gas or something. And I can’t be afraid of things out of my control. I can be cautious — I’m not going to go hang out in the Tenderloin at 10pm — but I can’t live in fear.

And neither can the rest of this country, unless we want to give up what few freedoms we have left for a false sense of “safety”. We can’t let the government take away a free press under guise of “national security”. We can’t let the government take away the right to free speech under cries of “treason”. We can’t let the government take away the right to freedom of religion (or non-religion) under claims of “Christian nation”. And we cannot let the government take away due process under law under the bogus claims of “War on Terror” and “9/11 changed everything.” The only thing 9/11 changed was that it brought us into the same watchful mindset the rest of the world has faced for years — but if we let the post-9/11 mindset rule our lives and we live the rest of those lives in fear…then the terrorists have indeed won.

See you somewhere in the friendly skies…(cue Rhapsody in Blue piano solo)

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