Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Profiling those who would profile

    I was told once that I strikingly resembled a Walrus. Not the marine mammal. Not the leader of the Beatles. I was, said an acquaintance, the spitting image of pro golfer Craig Stadler — known in his sport as the Walrus.

    I blinked and protested. Stadler is squat and chubby. Except for high hairlines and mustaches, we have no similarity whatsoever. Yet in this person's eyes, we were twins separated at birth.

     That's just one way of saying that a measure increasingly offered as the answer for airport security or border security is coo-coo-cha-choo.

     That measure is profiling: Single out those who look a certain way. Frisk them. Question them. Let the rest of us board the plane or walk the streets of Arizona in peace.

      Tell that to a journalist friend of mine. He has a full, dark mustache, a big head of black hair, and was told once that he looked like Saddam Hussein. No, he said. I'm a mama's boy from El Paso.

      If some people's suspicions prevailed, he'd be questioned not only at the airport but on Any Street in Arizona.

      We are told that Arizona's law authorizing police to question the immigration of people based on vague suspicions isn't about profiling, that it expressly forbids it. But, let's face it. Arizona lawmakers only papered over their desire to profile because, don't you know, politically correct elitists from Namby-Pamby Land won't allow it.

       Despite whatever legalese Arizona employs, if the new law clears the courts it will do exactly what proponents wish: profile brown-skinned people. It's exactly what some people want.

       If any pretense to the contrary was employed by supporters of profiling, it was shed in recent days with the uproar over heightened airport measures. From out of the woodwork en masse came the voices of profiling: Decide on what types of people to look for, and turn them inside out.

      This would exclude the young and the old, we're told. Not said, of course: The types of people excluded would be the profiling proponents themselves, because they have pale-to-ruddy skin and are registered at the Elks Lodge.

      Certain people have no problem with profiling when they assume they wouldn't be on the receiving end of it. If they had the features of a marginalized population, they would feel very differently.

      But that's always been a feature of a certain political brand which sells well with a large chunk of the American electorate.

      We saw the appeal when Tea Party darling Sharron Angle sought to win the Nevada U.S. Senate seat with commercials concocted of hate, paranoia and 100 percent pure, unadulterated racism.

      We saw it in the cyber-hysteria surrounding plans for a Islamic community center that has been embraced by its city, New York, and its immediate neighbors.

      We've seen it in efforts to institutionalize one faith at the expense of all others. The organization Concerned Women for America says it promotes Biblical values. (This month: "It's patriotic to say Merry Christmas.") As such, it has asserted that though our president "claims the Christian faith and invokes the name of Jesus," he has troubling familial associations with Islam — you know, split allegiances.

     Actually, a leader of this nation should have split allegiances, supporting all faiths under America's banner, and none over the others.

     A leader of this nation swears to uphold a Constitution that, despite a history of atrocities, now has us enjoying a remarkable period of symbiosis between faiths and ethnicities, factions that by all rights could always be at war.

    Sadly, some Americans take this peace for granted. They believe that a few simple indignities aimed at certain Americans would be harmless, since they wouldn't be those harmed.

      As such, those who with bad policy would shatter a gentle social contract — synthesis within difference — are more dangerous than any of those from whom they would demand citizenship papers.

      Blasphemy? Go ahead. Frisk me.

      Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

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