Thursday, August 24, 2006

How's my Turban?

I'm sitting here in the Sacramento International Airport, preparing to fly out to Montana to spend some time with my brother and family. I knew this was going to be a frustrating day when I woke up this morning because our country is living in such a state of fear that we can't even take water bottles on airplanes. Snakes can make it on to airplanes, but not water bottles (for those of you who are confused by that sentence, maybe you should ask Samuel L. Jackson about it). I also knew that I would probably get upset at the security checkpoint because it's generally some little short guy who got picked on when he was younger and is now sick on the power that he has to make people strip and lose every sense of dignity they once had before walking through his metal detector. I wasn't prepared, however, for the ridiculous racial profiling that I observed this morning, nor was I prepared for my reaction to it.

There were, by my estimate, no less than 80 people in the security line in front of us this morning. I was watching them all rather closely because I am fascinated by the art of watching people. Out of those 80 people, only one of them was pulled to the side for a full security check, pat down and all. He was an older gentleman, late forties by my guess, he appeared to have a very gentle and understanding spirit, he was wearing a collared shirt with a tie and black jeans. He also had dark skin, a beard, and was wearing a turban. While angry looking twenty-somethings with t-shirts declaring anarchy and upper middle-class white people walked by unnoticed, this gentle-spirited man was pulled aside and humiliated in front of everyone in the security line. Why? Well, he looked like a terrrorist of course. He was wearing a turban and had dark skin, so out of the other 80 people in line he was clearly the only one who posed any kind of potential threat to airport security.

I watched this man as the security guard flagged him down after walking through the metal detector, as the security guard held up a red paddle and yelled "male check on one". I watcehed this man as he was taken off to the side, and secured in the roped off area. He did not react. He merely nodded his head and quietly complied as he was led off and searched, the only one out of at least 80 people that I observed. I looked at his face as walked by him and saw the sadness, the removal of dignity in his eyes. His face looked to me like that of a person who had just lost his right to be human. It made me want to buy a turban, put in on, and walk by his side for a month to experience what his life was like, to give validation to the pain and suffering that he must endure simply because he is different from the rest of us. It made me want to ask the security guard why he wasn't searching me, or Jordana. After all, Jordana's skin is not white, some people think she's from the middle east. Maybe she could be a threat to national security. As I walked by and saw the sadness and the hurt in this man's eyes, I hurt for him. I thought to myself that if I were in his shoes, if I didn't have anti-american sentiments before this experience, I would certainly have them afterwards. I thought to myself that i do not believe it is our freedom that has currently made us one of the most hated countries in the globe, as many of our currenty leaders have told us. Rather, I believe what has given the United States such a negative reputation in the world is our fear and mistreatment of those who are different from us. Certainly there are the religious extremists who want to destroy us because of our corrrupt moral values, but perhaps the way that we tend to dehumanize people is part of this.

I believe that fear only has power over us when we allow it to. I don't believe that it takes an educated person to see that our current state of existence in this country is one of fear. We see it every day, from color-coded threat levels, to fear based news broadcasting, to mass e-mails circulated from our friends and family that tell us to be aware of "those crazy radical muslims" or whatever the case may be. We are living in a constant state of fear, fear of the unkown and fear of that which we don't understand. My wife and I were talking about this on the drive down here this morning. People everywhere are suffering from a generalized sense of anxiety because that is what is being proclaimed. The message that we hear everyday is this: there are imminent threats to this country, and our country's leadership may need to encroach on some people's civil liberties in order to deal with these threats. We are called to trust our leaders because in a time of threat such as this, unity is required. I have to be honest, I struggle with trusting our current leadership. I'm deathly afraid that we are not far off from the type of society that is envisioned in the movie "V for Vendetta", where we blindly submit to totalitarian leadership and sacrifice all civil liberties because we are afraid of an imminent threat. I do not want to be subject to a system of fear any longer. Jesus did not call me to a life of fear and blind subjection, he called me to a life of confidence in him where I constantly weigh everything against his word and Holy Spirit at work in my life.

Clearly, these are issues that have no easy answers, but I am not okay with the disrespect, mistrust, and fear that is constantly being exhibited to those who are "different". This is not the kingdom that Jesus preached, and I firmly believe that it is my responsibility as a follower of Jesus to fight this fear by living a life of love, understanding, and confidence. This life does not involve fear and blind submission to leadership, but confidence and constant evaluation of what leaders are telling us. This is my responsibility as both a citizen of this county and a follower of Jesus. I have a dream that one day soon we won't have to live in fear any longer and constantly be hearing messages such as "due to heigtened security". We're putting bandaids on a lethal wound.

But what do I know? I'm just a 24 year old white american male.


Jordana said...

I am SO mad right now at how our people stereotype others and that most likely the only reason that this man was checked at the security line was because of his ethnic decent. I wish i could just walk up to him and apologize for people's ignorance and stupidity. ARRRRGGGHHHHHH!
Please pray for the people who make up this country and that God's truth would be revealed about his people...that we are all the same, and we should have the right to be trusted based not on the color of our skin, nor the country we come from.
I think i understand now why you are my brother, my mother, you are me, and i am you. when do we begin to love our neighbors as ourselves?
I could be way off but i just can't shake this intense feeling of extreme injustice, and i don't know what to do about it.

Zach said...

I agree that the racial profiling is a big thing in our country but not as big as you may believe. It definitely happens but not everyone is apart of it and I think the point of our country acting on fears is a much bigger problem. For example, last time I was home on leave me and you were going home to visit grandparents and I was in my uniform, and the only people to be pulled aside and searched were me and an army guy in his uniform. Granted the reason was probably because of all the metal on our uniforms but seriously, what is our country coming to when they dont even trust their own militairy who are fighting the same terrorists who they are trying to protect against.

Jeremy Coverdale said...

Dude!, you need to write a book. i love your heart. I got "checked" once at a check point, its the worst feeling,they take you aside just far enough to where you arnt out of the way but still close so people can see. ask you questions and try to see if you are a threat. what ever happend to trust? this "freedom" we have is not so "free" anymore. the day is coming where we will need to be searched whenever we step outside of are own house... ok maybe not that bad. is it really only going to get worse? what do are children have to look forward to? lets buy an island and start over. we will call it cuba.

jonathan said...

Colter, I really appreciated one of your last sentences - "I firmly believe that it is my responsibility as a follower of Jesus to fight this fear by living a life of love, understanding, and confidence."
I find that it's easy to bemoan the current state of our countries - to write anti-whatever theses and point out a scapegoat (chogh, cough... Michael Moore) - it's clear to most sane people what the problems are. But, as Tolstoy says (I don't read a lot of Tolstoy, but I do enjoy dropping the name occasionally), "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself".
Who is the real enemy? Not "him or them" - but "you and I". Once we start fixing "you and I" and infecting others with the same understanding (let's call it the Kingdom of God), "them" loses its power and influence... at least that's how I see things as a niaeve and idealistic 23 year old (24 in 6 days) white north american male.

Patrick said...

i think to save all humiliation, they should just have everyone strip naked and walk through the check point... it would also save a lot of time.