"...George said that Transportation Security Administration officers kept him in the screening area for what seemed like 45 minutes. Eventually a woman from the TSA arrived and began asking more questions, like how he felt about 9/11.
" 'Do you know who did 9/11?' he said that the woman asked.
"George said that he told her that it was Osama bin Laden, and that she responded smugly, 'Do you know what language Osama bin Laden spoke?'
"Soon after that a Philadelphia police officer arrived and told George to put his hands behind his back. Without explanation, he slapped handcuffs on him and led him away...."
(Philadeplphia Daily News, via philly.com)
Defending American IgnoranceIn a way, the TSA's officers' and inquisitor's efforts are admirable.
In the face of a general awareness that foreigners are human beings, and easy communication with anyone on Earth through the Internet, they were valiantly striving to protect the air travelers from those who are so un-American as to actually learn something about those nasty Ay-rabs.
Nick George was a suspicious character, of course. Even though he looks like a "real American" (by, say, Timothy McVeigh's standards), Nick George had not only been in countries that weren't America, England, or (for the more tolerant "real Americans") France. George had been in Jordan, Egypt and Sudan.
And, Ay-rab words like "terrorist" and "explosion" were on his flash cards.
Nick George claimed that he had the flash cards so that he could learn to translate Al Jazeera - an Ay-rab news network.
What more proof did the TSA need? Here was someone who not only had been in places known to harbor Ay-rabs and other foreigners: he actually admitted to wanting to learn how to follow an Ay-rab television news network!
For that matter, neither am I. By some standards.
Although I look 'Anglo,' and even have blue eyes, I'm no red, white, and blue-blooded WASP. Half my ancestors came from the British Isles - but they were Irish and Scots. One of them might have been deported from England - but that's another story. The rest of my forebears were from Norway - so by some standards, I'm simply not a "real American."
I can live with that.
Particularly since quite a substantial number of American citizens aren't WASPs - and don't even look the part. I'd like to think that the days when "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant" and "American" were considered as synonyms by more than a few isolated crackpots are past - but incidents like Nick George's run-in with the TSA keep happening.
All-American Ignorance, Dangerous Knowledge, and the TSAAs I wrote in a post about dangerous technologies like LP gas and computers, "Knowledge is Power: and I Like Power."
I'm quite willing to believe that an American citizen might be interesting in learning Arabic - and even travel to the Middle East - without being a danger to others. Not physically dangerous, anyway. There's always the chance that someone like that might let others know that Ay-rabs were as human as "real Americans" are, weren't all terrorists, and weren't all Muslims.
"They're All Muslims," Nipple Rings, Flash Cards, and Common SenseMy guess is that quite a few TSA officers don't think that the flying public needs to be protected from nipple rings and flash cards. Or from the people who carry them.
On the other hand, in common with quite a few other Americans, some don't seem to realize that
- Not all Arabs are Muslims
- Not all Muslims are terrorists
- Not all terrorists are
It's a big, complex world out there. Cherishing ignorance isn't a viable option. Neither is hectoring people who try to expand their knowledge.
- "Muslim Family Talks Safety, Gets Booted From Flight"
(January 2, 2009)
- "Monkey Pirates, Jews, and Zionists? Get a Grip!"
(October 14, 2008)
- "Pro-Islamic Ads Coming to New York City Subways: There's a Real Danger Here, of Becoming Informed"
(July 21, 2008)
- "DC Gun Ban, Online Censorship, Individual Rights, and Power to the People"
(June 27, 2008) Particularly
- "Civil Rights Lynched in Seattle!! Racial Profiling Runs Amok!!"
(May 6, 2008)
- "TSA: Our Tax Dollars at Work: Protecting the Flying Public from Nipple Rings"
(March 27, 2008)
- " 'They’re all Muslims' - This Does Not Help"
(December 29, 2007)
- "If You Hear Someone Speaking Arabic, GET A GRIP!"
(September 1, 2007)
- "Beware Hate: From Any Side"
(August 28, 2007)
- "TSA Defends Holding Student With Arabic Flash Cards at Philadelphia Airport"
FOXNews (September 12, 2009)
- "Dave Davies: Student air passenger handcuffed to echoes of 9/11 fears"
(September 11, 2009)