During recent air travel in the Middle East, I was taking advantage of a rare opportunity to get caught up on some dated emails, reading and reflection. Reflection, for me, is the return, rebirth or rediscovery of a crucial part of my personal thought and decision making process that has proven “therapeutic” in a lifestyle that is built for speed.

The re-addition of reflection to my decision making cycle has changed me from reactive, to proactive, to adversity. For me, reflection represents the complete circle of thought, concept, effort, result and adjustment. Without reflection, there would be no improvement or adaptation prior to re-engagement. Reflection should serve as your personal after-action report. I feel that reflection should be part of every person’s routine, thought and continuous decision-making cycle. The following experience serves as a product or vignette of my reflections from that trip.

For over a decade, specifically in travel, we have learned that safety is good, awareness is better and creating an environment of security and confidence is optimal. One can certainly argue with the order of that precedence, but regardless, the consideration of these factors and how we or others choose to act upon them determines our behaviors. Are you acting or being required to act in a logical or illogical manners that balance your personal security with your freedoms as an American citizen? Are you achieving life’s fulfillment in a post 9/11 environment, or are you conditioned to continually compromise your liberties based on past events that continue to drive fear?

Back to those emails. One of those emails contained an article sent to me by a respected colleague and mentor. Yay, another article on Al Qaeda! Out of professional courtesy,  I was obliged to read the article and conjure up a response with intellectual injection as a gesture of appreciation for inclusion in this “electronic professional development club.” This specific article instantly captured my interests as it broadly discussed the strategic foundation of Al Qaeda and referenced a book that defined their simplistic views of global insurgency. The book, published in 1965, is titled War of the Flea, by Robert Taber, an American investigative journalist who covered Castro’s operations in the late 1950s.

The title refers to Mao’s often-cited analogy that guerrilla warfare is like the attack of a weak flea against a powerful dog. The flea first agitates the dog with a few bites, and then the dog attacks itself in a frenzy but is unable to kill the flea; as the bites multiply and other fleas join, the dog is weakened and eventually dies. When I first digested the strategy, I found the book to be a wise foundational choice for Al Qaeda. The concept, although simple and primitive, provides both hope and morale for an enemy that exists as a perpetual underdog that leverages ideology as their recruitment strategy.

As I finished the article attached to that email, my meal arrived. Being ticketed on an airline carrier outside the United States, everyone on the plane, regardless of your seating class, receives a full meal. That may be surprising to most given the current food accommodations, or lack thereof, with U.S. airline carriers. What should really surprise you, as it did me, is that the meal came with utensils. Not a “spork” (plastic spoon-fork combo), but with actual cutlery, as in fork-spoon-knife, the metal type.

Being a conditioned security conscience American, I was shocked and instantly began assessing the situation from near to far. I was just provided with three legitimate weapons that now sat in front of me. Then, my interests turned into anxiety as I stumbled upon the realization that there were hundreds of individuals present within close quarters with the same weapons, only I had no way to determine their intent. I slowly and cautiously looked at my neighbors in the seats to the right and left of me, then was calmed with the realization that I was preemptive in my preparation prior to the flight.

I had adequately prepared by proactively seeking out and acquiring the proper education, which allowed me to choose an optimal seat aboard the aircraft. Essentially, I had bought down the risk and, as a result, security and confidence were high, therefore I was able to relax and enjoy my meal and flight. The situation was not optimal given a critical event, but was controllable because of my preparation and awareness. Before I leave you hanging………..the meal was a delicious four-course meal: chicken curry with rice, salad with ginger dressing and a rice pudding desert.

Both the airline and the people aboard had zero security concerns regarding the cutlery aboard the plane and in everyone’s possession. Was this negligence, lack of safety, lack of security or loss of awareness on the part of the airline carrier, or had I, we as Americans gone down a path of hyper sensitivity towards safety and security? Have American’s become slaves to the potential of traumatic events or repeat occurrence of past events?

Then my reflection became more personal as I began a rant: why am I still taking my shoes off at the airport despite a single act of failure to execute a shoe bomb? Does TSA feel the flea is incapable of adaptation? When was the last time I saw a  kid visiting the cockpit of a plane and talking with the pilot? Do those fake plastic pilots wings that I was so proud to wear as a kid exist in the modern era of our children? Have we traded our liberty for security? Will our freedoms and liberties ever return to normalcy? Are we unwitting participants in a strategically designed war against a flea? The odds are in favor of the flea of mysterious Flight 370 never reveals answers. Was a metal meal knife part of its demise?

On March 23, 1775 Patrick Henry delivered what most people consider his most famous speech, titled LIBERTY OR DEATH. His speech was the inevitable call for a war, since negotiation or compromise of liberties were no longer achievable. He declared his line in the sand, that stated, “Further concessions or loss of liberties beyond what we currently possess and unacceptable and not worth living for.” Patrick Henry was going on the offensive!

Why do we as living Americans feel we can accept a reduction in those liberties and allow that line in the sand to be moved? Are we declaring that our children’s freedoms will be reduced by allowing this to happen? At what point do we stop being incompetent and seize conceding our freedoms in an environment that lacks security? If your answer is uncertain because you feel life has become so unpredictable and uncontrollable, then ask yourself – are we the dog attacking ourselves in a frenzy and is the flea winning by slowly weakening our desire to hold the line?

In final reflection, safety is good, awareness is better, security and confidence is optimal in your life and your travels. Consideration of these factors and how we chose, or how others choose, to act upon them on our behalf determines whether we behave in a logical manner that balances our personal security with our freedoms and ultimately whether we are ever going to achieve life’s fulfillment in a post 9/11 environment.

Two things are for sure: We cannot go back to the past, and times have changed… or have they? Families of Flight 370 might argue otherwise. With that, everyone needs to become offensive in order to hold the line. Empower yourself with education, security tactics and products that mitigate threats, decrease your exposure to crisis, and increase survivability, allowing you to confidently take back your rights, freedoms and liberties. Determine your personal line in the sand today, become offensive and hold that line! In doing so, you can rest assured that you are doing your part by becoming part of the solution, rather than the problem. Lastly, know that Patrick Henry would have been proud of you!

Bottom Line: Laws and Rules Help Promote Security – Only You Can Ensure It.

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(Main image: courtesy of NBC News)