You end up doing things that make you look silly.
I have a lot of friends from India and I just recently learned that Abdul Kalam, the former president of India, was subjected to a private screening and frisking at JFK airport in 2011. I'm told that this man is revered. He ran for president somewhat reluctantly and only at the strong urging of his many admirers. He comes from a very poor background. Apparently he delivered newspapers at a young age to contribute to his father's income. He has degrees in physics and aerospace engineering. If Abraham Lincoln had lived to an old age and after his distinguished presidency was treated in the same way, what would we think?
And why was Kalam treated in this way? Because of our fear of terrorism, a danger that is so remote that you are more likely to die by drowning in your own bathtub, or having a coconut fall on your head. For the threat of falling coconuts we are making fools of ourselves.
Shahrukh Khan (to the right) is India's most popular actor. Or so I'm told. It happens I saw a movie of his called "My Name is Khan". He plays a man with aspergers that embarks on an effort to convince Obama that he is not a terrorist. His signature line is "My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist." You can be the biggest actor in the world and your biggest movie can be about an effort to convince America that you aren't a terrorist. You can star in that movie with the most popular actress in India (Kajol, to the left). But this doesn't stop you from being treated like a terrorist at US airports. I mean, think about this. His name is literally Khan. The movie didn't have to be "My Name is Khan". They could have used a different name. But they used the very last name of the actor. They are shouting from the rooftops exclaiming that they are not to be feared. But Khan (who is a Muslim and of course has a Muslim name, like Abdul Kalam) was detained a second time recently, which delayed his scheduled speech at Yale.
On the surface this seems very irrational. But if we want to be serious I guess we have to admit it's not irrational. The threat is not real. But the fear is very useful. And that's why we act this way.