Land of the free

This is the story of what happened to a woman from my hometown when she dared to fly on September 11th despite being Arab and Jewish, and when she had the misfortunate to sit next to similarly suspicious dark-skinned passengers. I don’t know why I am so deeply affected by the fact that this is someone from my hometown. After all, I’m not thinking it could have been me– I’m far too pale. But it could so easily have been one of my dearest childhood friends. Maybe that’s why. Or maybe it’s just a well-told story that brings home just how far we are from those ideals we claim to care so much about. Those &*%& Republicans want us to think freedom is about not being forced to give medical care to dying people. [Many expletives deleted.]


(Thanks, Jender Parents and J-Bro.)

3 thoughts on “Land of the free

  1. It’s a well-told story, narrated without self-pity and without a great deal of indignation, with an eye for detail, targeting a reading public which includes me and perhaps you.

    Many times it is difficult to me to put myself in the place of victims because their understandable self-pity and rage/indignation makes me uncomfortable.

    Probably, it’s a defect of those of us who are relatively privileged, but many of us feel uncomfortable around rage, even if intellectually, we understand that rage.

  2. What really leaps off the page for me is the need of the federal agents to justify themselves on several occasions (“you do understand that we *have* to do this for security, right???”). It brings to mind Moody-Adams’s work on affected ignorance. These federal agents understand perfectly well that what they’re doing is wrong.

  3. This is what happens when your absolute first organizational priority is “don’t let an incident happen”. You get a culture where, once anything anomalous gets kicked up the chain, everyone feels they have to take it all the way – because if they fail to do so, and an incident happens, they’ll get publicly destroyed. Everyone, at every step along the line, is driven by fear of being the one who failed to stop an incident. That overrides any fear they have of being the one who abused an innocent person: the penalties for doing that, in this environment, are far less than the penalties for being the one who let an actual terrorist walk.

    That’s a real problem in a society where our first priority is meant to be “don’t abuse innocent people”. We need to fix it. However, the fix isn’t obvious at all.

    Personally, I think that when someone reports suspicious behavior on an airplane, they should be detained as well (it could be a diversion). If the target isn’t found to actually be suspicious, the person who reported it should get effectively the same treatment they did. Hey, if it was important enough to call the machinery of Homeland Security down on someone, you should be willing to get cavity searched for it.

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