01 May 2007

Non-knitting commentary

Sorry, no pictures yet. I need to wait until The Tim can help me (it is his camera, after all) and he is working this evening.

This is a snippet of a conversation that happened in our house over the weekend:

Me: You know what really bothers me?
The Tim: Besides everything?

(Yeah, I thought to myself, you're a real laff riot there, Timothy. Not because it wasn't the truth, but because I was going to inform him of what bothered me at that particular moment. Which completely escapes me today. Though I'm sure it was important ...)

But I was reading Melanie's most recent post on her blog, and she linked to this entry, Poetry is Dangerous. Which is exactly what is bothering me now.

When we lived in Chicago, there was a couple across the hall from us in our apartment building that became lifelong friends. He was from Egypt, and her parents were from Cuba. We used to always tease him about being a terrorist - this at a time when you could tease about it. Well, we moved away, and so did they, but we keep in touch. They have two boys, and the oldest one, from the time he was a little kid, wanted to fly planes. The agreement his parents made with him was that if he was still interested by his 18th birthday, he could take flying lessons.

His 18th birthday was in October 2001. Do you see the problem here? They couldn't find an instructor that would take him on as a student, because it was just a month or so after the September 11 attacks, and everyone was worried about "ethnic-looking" people taking flying lessons. He and his parents were told to "wait it out" and sooner or later, he would probably have no problem signing up for lessons.

He's finishing up with his college studies now, and as far as I know, he never got around to learning to fly, though he did get pulled out of line once when boarding a flight to Kansas to visit a childhood friend ...

I'm not saying that there aren't people in the world set on destroying America. Because of course there are, probably more so now than ever in my lifetime. It's a legitimate, serious concern - none of us want to end up dead just because of where we live.

But things like a faculty member being questioned for putting a box of recycling by a trash can, or a teenager not being able to take flying lessons, based solely on their physical appearance, really upsets me. Because I really don't think you can look at someone and determine whether or not they are a decent, law-abiding citizen.

Just a few years ago, someone who was in a very high-level job at the university where I was working, who was supposedly a well-respected scholar, turned out to be heavily into child pornography. As far as his appearance, he looked pretty much like your typical middle-aged, nerdy scholar. As far as I know, this has not caused a backlash against middle-aged, nerdy scholars across America. Should it? Would it have been a more serious offense if he was "ethnic" looking?

I think it probably is a very frustrating task to try and prevent terrorist attacks, since they can come from any place at any time. I think there probably are people living here who are working, or could be recruited, to wreak havoc. I think there are also plenty of people who get up every day, go to work or school, pay their bills, and really just live their lives. I don't claim to have the answers.

I just wish more people would ask questions. And it bothers me that they don't.


Anonymous said...

We're attempting to have this exact discussion in my class. People are afraid, on the one hand, of appearing politically incorrect, while, on the other, harboring prejudicial and stereotypical ideas. And no one will talk about it.

I'm trying to force a discussion.

Anonymous said...

I think we've come a long way from what we are supposed to stand for - tolerance, independence, freedom. It makes me wonder where the children of the 60s are, the people who questioned authority and believed they could change the world. I am guilty to a certain extent of 'not asking questions.' And yes, I am afraid, but not of appearing politically incorrect or prejudicial. I am afraid of the reaction of people who claim that questioning authority, policy, and attitudes makes me un-American and unpatriotic. I have reason to be afraid. Speaking my mind about local issues cost me a job that I loved, attempts were made by the powers-that-be to damage my credibility and reputation, and my life was drastically changed. What the (*&% is that about? What is it that makes people feel they have to discredit anyone that challenges the status quo? It makes me mad, and it hurts me. So, I keep my opinion to myself and hope for change. That makes me a part of the problem, I know it, and I don't know what to do about it.

Well, that's my rant. I don't feel any better getting it off my chest but it's good to hear someone else express the same concerns.

teabird said...

I am a child of the sixties, and I haven't lost my values or my taste for battling bigotry at all. Some of us are strong, still. Others have decided to go with the zeitgeist because they got greedy. Others have, truly, changed their minds about their former ideals. They're the worst, because they're like reformed ________ (fill in the blank) - very eager to convince everyone that their new way is The Right Way (literally, actually) - I've finally gotten the words together to comment on my own posting at tea leaves - not in the depth I had hoped, but -

Paula, you have said it so well.