You are sitting in the concourse of an airport, preparing for your flight, when out of the corner of your eye, you spot six Arab men praying loudly in Arabic.
"Okay," you say to yourself, "that's a bit disquieting. But praying isn't terrorism."
You glance at your watch. It's time to board the plane. Sure enough, there's the boarding announcement. Suddenly, you hear the six Arab men chanting loudly. "Allah! Allah! Allah!"
"Okay," you say to yourself, "maybe they're still praying."
You board the flight and take your seat. You notice that two of the Arab men sit at the back of the airplane, two more sit in the middle of the plane on the exit aisle, and two sit at the front of the airplane.
"Okay," you say to yourself, "perhaps they couldn't get seats together."
A few seconds later, you hear a stewardess explain to another passenger that the six Arab men moved from their assigned seats to the new seating arrangement. And it seems that the two Arab men up front are now asking for seat-belt extensions.
"Okay," you say to yourself, "they don't look overweight. But perhaps they have indigestion."
Except that the two Arab men quickly tuck the seat-belt extensions underneath their seats. Then they begin speaking in both English and Arabic about President Bush, the war in Iraq, al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
You spot another passenger signaling a stewardess. Minutes later, the six Arab men are escorted from the airplane.
Secretly, you're breathing easier. You make it to your destination without further incident. But when you turn on the television that evening, you see the six Arab men telling the media that their removal from the flight was a reflection of American xenophobia and ignorance. "I never felt bad in my life like yesterday," says one, apparently the leader of the group. "It was the worst moment in my life when I see six imams, six leaders in this community, humiliated. . . . In America we have no freedom to practice our faith, to do our faith."
A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is telling the media that the incident will be investigated. A Democratic congresswoman from Texas is explaining that the terrorist attacks of September 11 "cannot be permitted to be used to justify racial profiling, harassment and discrimination of Muslims and Arab Americans."
"Okay," you say to yourself, "maybe my perception was skewed by my fears."
Months pass. The ACLU steps into the fray. They sue the airline on behalf of the six Arab men. The airline quickly settles the case for a few million dollars. The head of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation declares victory. "This will send a message to the airline industry," he jubilates.
It's been a year since the incident. You are sitting in a concourse of an airport. You look up from your newspaper and see six Arab men praying loudly. As you board the flight, you hear them shouting: "Allah! Allah! Allah!" After stowing your carry-ons, you notice that the six Arab men have split into three groups of two: two at the front, two in the middle, two at the rear. The two in front are asking for seat-belt extensions. They are not overweight.
"Stewardess?" the man next to you calls. "Stewardess, I'm afraid that there are six Arab-looking men on the plane who are acting suspiciously." He describes their behavior.
"Oh, yes," the stewardess says. "Don't worry about them." The man turns back to his magazine.
The woman across the aisle prods him. "Frankly, sir, I'm a bit surprised at your close-mindedness," she says.
The cabin doors are closed. The plane taxis. Take-off is smooth.
And about half an hour after take-off, the two Muslim men at the front of the plane strangle the stewardesses to death.
The two at the back of the plane pull out knives they have smuggled through security.
And you realize that we no longer live in a safe world where the ACLU and Muslim sensitivities should be a first concern. You realize that your first priority should have been getting off that plane. And you realize that intentionally or unintentionally, the six Arab men who were pulled off the plane a year ago aided and abetted the six Arab terrorists who are taking over your plane today. They preyed on your liberal sensibilities, your fears of being called a "racist."
Then you hear the woman across the aisle. "Okay," she says to herself, "maybe they're just getting up to use the restrooms."