News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Sunday, November 21, 2010

TSA Crotch-Gate Rife With Hypocrisy

The media has found a new 15-minute celebrity in John Tyner, the software engineer who complained to a TSA employee at the San Diego airport about what Mr. Tyner considered an unjust invasion of his, ahem, privacy. With the story involving the opportunity to discuss genital groping, the media naturally pounced. Before long, political pundits jumped into the act.

Charles Krauthammer offered a simple solution: stop harassing “ordinary Americans” and start profiling. Of course, like most who favor profiling, Mr. Krauthammer is vague about who should be targeted by the TSA. But you can bet CK thinks those being profiled should be people who do not look like him. However, profiling is more than institutionalized prejudice. It's also dangerously stupid. In his rush to demagogue this issue, Mr. Krauthammer seems to have ignored the likes of Colleen LaRose (AKA Jihad Jane), the blond, green-eyed suburbanite who was arrested as part of a plot to kill a cartoonist who had defiled Mohammed in the eyes of Muslim extremists. And let's not forget the Hutaree Militia or Timothy McVeigh. Fact is, terrorists can be any color or gender. 

In another crotch-gate editorial, fellow traveler George Will, desperately searching the conservative pantheon for a hero from the right who would have stood against these "draconian" TSA measures, resurrected the ghost of William F. Buckley.  Mr. Will paints Buckley as a champion of the downtrodden, a glowing example of an American who stood up to the oppression of the powerful and said “no more, tyrants!” The example Will uses is an incident from 1960 when Buckley was miffed by a trainload of suburban commuters who refused to complain to the conductor about the sudden breakdown of the air-conditioning. (Oh, the horror.)

Still, it seems a lot of “ordinary Americans” are incensed at what they see as this latest infringement on their liberties. There was a similar hue and cry when the Ohio Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the state’s highway patrol could issue speeding tickets without using radar.

Meanwhile, recent polls show most Americans support immigration laws like Arizona’s SB 1070, even if it leads to racial profiling.

Inside my skin, the message is quite clear. Many Americans take great umbrage when they feel their rights are being violated by authorities. But if someone who is not an “ordinary American” is racially profiled, well, that’s quite literally a horse of a different color. In their view, the 80% of Hispanics in the U.S. legally need to suck it up and quit whining about the very real possibility of being detained any time a police officer believes “reasonable suspicion” of their immigration status exists.

It’s very likely many Americans supporting SB 1070 are not even conscious of this hypocrisy. Having a blind spot to other people’s problems is an all too common human fault.  But from where I sit, the irony is pretty thick.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez

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