Comments on “Safest' seat remarks gets Muslim family kicked off plane” from CNN on 2 January 2009
What is one to say about the news on CNN on 2 January 2009 about a family of eight American Muslims being kicked off a plane because they were discussing which were the safest seats on the plane? Questioned by the FBI, they were released, but the airline, some outfit I’ve never heard of, called Air Tran, refused to rebook them for the next available flight after they were released by the FBI.
First point: the ignorance of the average American, living in a state of perpetual fear, with no knowledge either of what a Muslim is, how a plane gets hijacked, or a suicide bombing attack is mounted. The average American apparently thinks that a Muslim family of eight would blow its entire family up, presumably because George Bush told them that these kinds of people hate America and its wonderful values.
Second point: the impunity of the airlines, of which this is obviously only one example. Never mind Muslims, who in America nowadays would dare to say anything on any subject that might lead ignorant passengers and airline staff to begin to worry? Could I, an academic specialist on violence with a fair amount of knowledge of some forms of terrorism based on my own research, dare to talk to a colleague on a plane about my work? And perhaps I should not carry around with me on planes the books I read on the subject. I do have a thick beard also and could be mistaken for a Muslim or just some radical of some sort.
Third point. Who among us dares to even complain or make a fuss about the disgusting, sordid treatment we get on airplanes nowadays? I used to do so whenever I encountered poor service. I have several times in the good old days also been compensated for poor service. I don’t dare to even try now. My point here was confirmed the day after I wrote this in the following statement from Air Tran published by CNN the next day: “The airline said it did not re-book the family only because the security concern had not been resolved, and because one member of the group ‘became irate and made inappropriate comments.’” Evidently it was not sufficient that the FBI itself said there was no security concern about this family. And then, what exactly is an inappropriate comment after what the airline did? I cannot think of a curse of any sort that would not be justified in the circumstances.
Meanwhile, the airline stewardesses and stewards, when they are not selling stuff to us, blasting our ears with messages and noise we do not all want to hear, who do next to nothing for those of us who sit in economy class, sit in the rear of the plane doing crossword puzzles. They hardly get off their rear ends during an entire flight. And I’ve heard the pay is pretty good. And then they all get off their butts at the end of the flight and stand up at the front to smile at us and thank us. One would like to spit in their faces, but that would certainly mean a long jail sentence.
But, let’s get serious now. Let’s consider what this kind of action against a harmless, respectable family of eight means about our security. Think of the amateurishness of the response and the time wasted on the part of our security agents with such things when they could actually be thinking about how actually to deal with the next possible threat and where it might come from. Then multiply this by the time wasted by the enormous staff of Homeland Security with their orange lights and all that childish nonsense. What light did they put on while the family of eight was arrested? Did they get an immediate message saying there was a potential security threat and to raise the alert? And what use are their damned fool security alerts anyway?
The main point here is that, Muslims or not, we are all less free than we have ever been in my lifetime at least. We have to be careful what we say, where we say it, how we say it. Being an American citizen amounts to a lot less than what it did when I grew up, a long time ago. Even in the Joe McCarthy era, or in the anti-Vietnam movement, I never felt threatened by my government, only by the idiot hostile crowds of super-patriotic Americans even though I knew I was being filmed in every march I took and speech I made against that war. I used to also tell the FBI agents who came to question me about students of mine who wanted to go into government service that many of their questions were impertinent or irrelevant. I never even bothered to ask for my records to see what the FBI files say about me.
What happened to these Muslims on Air Tran and what is happening all over America now is that famous knock on the door. It is knocking for us all, not just for hapless Muslim Americans.