Leaving Our Rights Behind

Sometimes life mirrors the comic strips. The recent “Doonesbury” series on ethnic profiling was frighteningly accurate and reflective of our current reality.

I should know; on Oct. 12, I was ordered off a Delta Airlines flight at Raleigh-Durham International Airport because a panic-stricken passenger seated to my immediate right said I made him nervous.

The plane’s captain explained that he was removing me because I had created an “uncomfortable” environment. He refused to hear my explanation, and I was quickly escorted off the airplane.

Had he listened, he would have learned that the fear and discomfort the complaining passenger apparently felt were in response to discovering that I’m originally from Lebanon. As in the comic strip, I was guilty of “flying while Arab” (akin to “driving while black”). As one who teaches children to respect differences, recognize similarities and appreciate connections between peoples, I was shocked and insulted by this xenophobic discrimination.

Given the horrific hijackings of Sept. 11, and last month’s attempted attack using a shoe bomb in mid-flight, the need for heightened security at airports is painfully obvious. Yet racism and hatred of foreigners must not be allowed to replace good judgment and wise security measures.

The most recent high-profile example is the case of the Arab-American Secret Service officer, entrusted with protecting the life of the president, who was taken off a commercial flight on Christmas Day, in part because he “looked suspicious.” Vigilance is good, but racism is bad; let’s not let one become the other.

Incidents like these illustrate how quickly civil rights can be lost. After the passage of the USA Patriot Act and the planned military tribunals, fundamental civil liberties are being violated.

Ignore your rights, and they will go away — for all of us, immigrants and citizens alike. We must protect our freedom, not sacrifice it through fear. And it is precisely during a time of national emergency when abiding by our valued American principles is most critical. If we believe in the principles symbolized by our flag, “liberty and justice for all,” then Attorney General John Ashcroft is wrong in suggesting that some people do not deserve due process of the law. Just as we have zero tolerance for terrorism, we must have zero tolerance for violations of civil and human rights for all residents of the United States.

It is not possible to have racial profiling, ethnic/religious discrimination, arbitrary arrests and detentions — and then expect to return to the principles of our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Today, people of Middle Eastern descent, including some congressmen (one of whom was also refused a seat on a commercial flight), are part of “the other” being targeted. An injustice against one violates all of our rights as it damages protections we each cherish. We must raise freedom’s torch higher instead of letting go of our civil and human rights to quench our anxieties.

The abridgment of civil rights has too often been deemed acceptable during times of war, as evidenced by the internment of American citizens of Japanese heritage during World War II. Are we to believe that after the war everything was made right again, even though there are many stories to the contrary?

This war on terrorism is open-ended, much like the everlasting war on drugs. When will it be possible to declare victory? Can we risk waiting that long while civil rights continue to be eroded? Shall we wait until our Bill of Rights becomes a relic and our freedoms a mere memory? When and how will we regain our squandered rights?

We are a proud nation and we must remember who we are. Except for the indigenous peoples, we are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants, and we have all gained much from the continuing diversity and varied contributions that all have carried with them and passed on to this great nation.

Thus, racial profiling ultimately affects us all — Native American, Asian-American, African-American, Arab-American, Latin-American, Euro-American or any other flavor of law-abiding person — and regardless of the popularity of one’s socio-political views.

United We Stand must bring together people of diverse ethnicities and persuasions with respect, tolerance and true allegiance to our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Otherwise, fear and ignorance will prevail, and there will be no real peace and security to enjoy in the New Year.

Wael Masri lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.

More articles by:
March 20, 2018
Jonathan Cook
US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank
Jeffrey St. Clair
How They Sold the Iraq War
Chris Busby
Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout
Nick Alexandrov
Washington’s Invasion of Iraq at Fifteen
David Mattson
Wyoming Plans to Slaughter Grizzly Bears
Paul Edwards
My Lai and the Bad Apples Scam
Julian Vigo
The Privatization of Water and the Impoverishment of the Global South
Mir Alikhan
Trump and Pompeo on Three Issues: Paris, Iran and North Korea
Seiji Yamada
Preparing For Nuclear War is Useless
Gary Leupp
Brennan, Venality and Turpitude
Martha Rosenberg
Why There’s a Boycott of Ben & Jerry’s on World Water Day, March 22
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes