I just got through watching "The Flight That Fought Back", a special on UA Flight 93, the fourth hijacked airplane from 9/11/01 that crashed in Pennsylvania. It was affirming - the passengers of Flight 93 were acting as the citizen's militia when they attacked the hijackers, causing the plane to crash into an empty field rather than into a random building in Washington. I have nothing but the greatest respect to those people, and honor their memory and their families.
But I have a problem with some of the messaging surrounding the program. The CEO of Ask Jeeves said it, Elizabeth Wanio's sister said it, and the new website dedicated to erecting a memorial to the flight - that the people on that flight sacrificed themselves to protect the lives of others. While in hindsight, that is true, I doubt it was the first thing these people were thinking when they attacked the terrorists. They wanted to take the plane back - they had a pilot on the ground (the husband of a flight attendant), a pilot on the plane, and a plan to retake the plane. They wanted to live.
Part of me is angry at this spin on the passengers of Flight 93. Their actions and memories are being used, rather cheaply, to advance the the false morality of self-sacrifice (yes, I subscribe to Ayn Rand's philosophy). This idea, that self-sacrifice is the highest moral behavior one can aspire to, is cancerous to the ideals of liberty, where self-reliance, self-responsibility, and individual integrity are the ultimate aspirations. Self-sacrifice is a form of cowardice, the triumph of feeling over accomplishment, the antithesis of personal accomlishment and integrity.
For the record, in my opinion, the lesson of Flight 93 is that individual's acting of their own free will are more powerful that anything government can put together.
The fallout from 9/11/01 has actually made it harder for a group of citizens on a hijacked airline to do what these heroes did. They at least has forks and knives from the airline galley - now they'll have to fight attackers with plastic utensils. Since terrorists don't follow the rules to begin with, why do we assume they won't have knives? There have been potential terrorists who have caught on planes with blades and shoe bombs - how will we fight back now? And how effective has the TSA been in stopping people from getting on airplanes without weapons? I know they've managed to keep babies off planes and disarm grandmothers of knitting needles.
Anyway, I did enjoy the movie, and think the passengers of Flight 93 embodied the truest ideals of what it means to be American. Too bad our elected officials can't say the same thing.
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