FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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:
Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail