"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Congratulations, Republicans!

You've managed to turn us into a nation of paranoid freaks:

On April 6, UC Berkeley senior Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was supposed to fly from Los Angeles to Oakland, get to campus and go to class. Instead, Makhzoomi was removed from Southwest Airlines flight 4260, detained by security officers, questioned by the FBI and refused service from Southwest after speaking Arabic before his flight took off.

Makhzoomi is a refugee from Iraq whose father, an Iraqi diplomat, was killed under Saddam Hussein. He'd been in LA to attend a dinner with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and was trying to get back to Oakland to attend his classes at Berkeley.

This whole story is pretty gruesome:

On his way back to Berkeley, Makhzoomi, a loyal Southwest premier rewards member, boarded his flight to Oakland and called his uncle in Baghdad to tell him about Ki-moon’s event. At the end of the phone call, conducted in Arabic, Makhzoomi said goodbye to his uncle with the phrase “inshallah,” which translates to “if God is willing.”

When Makhzoomi hung up, he noticed a female passenger looking at him. Once he made eye contact with her, she got up and left her seat.

“She kept staring at me and I didn’t know what was wrong,” he said. “Then I realized what was happening and I just was thinking ‘I hope she’s not reporting me.’”

She was, actually. Read the whole story, if you can stand it.

Frankly, Southwest should get a lot of high-profile blowback from this, but it's probably not going to happen. What I would like to see happen is for that woman's name to be plastered all over the Internet, but then, I'm kind of cranky lately.

Karoli Kuns, who did this story at Crooks and Liars, is a lot more charitable:

This is what all the fearmongering has wrought. I guess I could rip on the passenger who thought she overheard something she didn't, but she's just as much a victim of the crap that gets tossed around against Muslims as everyone else is. Although, she might consider learning Arabic rather than pretending she understands a language she clearly didn't.

It's OK -- you can rip the woman as much as you like -- she obviously doesn't have the brains that god gave a doorknob, but she feels free to screw up someone else's life without having the vaguest idea what's going on.

This is the result of fifteen years of Republican anti-Muslim fearmongering, or one of the results. (The real result is Donald Trump, but he bores the bejeezus out of me: he's just not an interesting figure. I was going to say "person," but he's really more of a symptom than anything else.)

One thing that came up in the comments to Karoli's article is that Americans are woefully ignorant of the rest of the world. By way of illustration, when I was in high school, one of the requirements for graduation was two years of a foreign language. Ditto college. (Most of my classmates took Spanish, because it's easy to learn; being me, I took Classical Latin, German, and Russian. If I were doing it now, I'd probably take Chinese and Arabic.) That's a state requirement; some states, apparently, don't require knowing anything about the world outside our borders at all.

But I digress.

One can almost excuse the woman who reported this poor guy, if one can excuse being an ignorant git. What's even worse is the behavior of airline security and the FBI: I would expect them to display a bit more in the way of reasoned judgment. Apparently. that's not a job requirement for any sector of law enforcement.

Welcome to Donald Trump's America.


Pieter said...

Stories like this are so depressing. I agree that Americans have become too insular and paranoid, and like you did, I had to take at least two years of a foreign language to graduate from high school, which I think was a great help in opening my mind to other cultures. State requirements now have regressed to the point that my high school education might as well be a bachelor's degree in comparison. Really unfortunate.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

I don't blame the woman who reported him. There will always be false alarms based on paranoid fantasies. If the airline and security haven't figured out how to evaluate reports, they should be liable for the mistreatment, a compensation fund at the very least.

I suppose I'm dreaming of a juster America.

Hunter said...

I can't be all that sympathetic to the woman -- I'm just too conditioned to finding out what's actually going on before I get hysterical.