When comedian Joan Rivers was booted off a flight from Costa Rica to Newark, N.J., this past weekend, it was not because she had perpetrated crimes against the human appearance. Rather, it was because she was a potential security risk.
In a recent column, my assertion that airport security should ignore most of us and focus on bad actors (not the Joan Rivers variety of bad actor, though one sympathizes), who tend to originate from disagreeable locales (not Hollywood) and affiliate themselves with a religious denomination (not Scientology), provoked a torrent of livid e-mails to land in my inbox.
One perturbed writer, an American Muslim, encapsulated the thoughts of many by accusing me of "encouraging ... racist profiling," calling that "inexcusable and ignorant." This sentiment also was found in the progressive blogosphere as a reaction to any mention of ethnic or religious profiling.
Evidently, the Obama administration -- despite unleashing a barrage of euphemistic rationalizations -- is also a nest of boorish, racist sentiment, as it instructed airports to profile travelers en route to the United States from 14 countries, most of which share some vague thematic connection. They include Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Saudi Arabia et al.
It is a shame that anyone has to endure questioning or pat-downs or worse at airports, but the fact is that those who are behind terrorism have, by large margins, originated from these 14 nations. (Islam, incidentally, is not a race; it is a faith. So there is nothing "racist" about criticizing it or its adherents, most of whom -- need it be repeated -- are peaceful.)
No serious person in this nation has insinuated that Islamic religious freedoms should be infringed or curtailed. Yet if these indignant letter writers were interested in unearthing honest-to-goodness inexcusable ignorance, widespread dehumanization and institutionalized xenophobia, they could find it in abundance in any run-of-the-mill Muslim theocracy, monocracy or autocracy. There are many to choose from.
That reality, of course, is none of our business, as a matter of policy. Protecting citizens from foreign threats, on the other hand, is.
Understandably, this has unfurled a complex situation. Are we overreacting? What is an appropriate level of interrogation? When is war justified? What rights do enemy combatants have? Fair debates, no doubt.