I scooped up a plain black canvas carry-on bag and headed over to the security line. I had no intention of flying to New York. This was an experiment. I’d become suspicious of the lack of suspicion I’d received during my week-long veiling. I’d encountered no fear, no hostility, hardly even any curiosity. If anything, my fellow Washingtonians showed unusual courtesy to a woman in a burka.
And so it continued at the airport. The ticket agent had registered zero reaction when I’d approached the counter, except to offer an extra cheerful greeting: “Hi! Where are you travelling?”
It had been the same the day before on the Washington subway. I entered the train at morning rush hour carrying a large black backpack, which I clutched to my chest in the centre of the train. With the exception of one elderly passenger who bolted up from his seat when I got on, scurrying to the most remote end of the carriage, everyone else aboard resolutely ignored my appearance. The woman closest to my mysterious backpack glanced up and then resumed her BlackBerrying.
I can’t know what they were thinking, obviously. A few must have wondered whether I was about to explode. But evidently they’d rather be blown up than exhibit any behaviour that might be construed as intolerant.
And good for them, I suppose. “The vast majority of Muslims abhor terrorism,” we are frequently reminded, and of course that’s true. And yet, even tolerance can be taken too far.
Via, of all places, that sewer known as Free Republic. I am spending way too much time there. There are some sacrifices one should not make for one’s blog.
So let’s go over David Frum’s love interest’s experiment here. She wears a burka, hoping to be … yelled at? Argued with? Assaulted? Profiled? She’s disappointed when people don’t drag her off public transportation, throw her in jail, tear her clothes off? God, how awful for her.
It seems to escape Crittenden’s notice that the point of all this is that most Americans are not as bed-shittingly scared of terrorism as the majority of right-wing nuts would like them to be. Most Americans, after all, being grown-ups with things to read and Blackberries to type on and places to get to that interfere with, you know, our entire lives being paranoid fever dreams of a world aflame from Islam and the last five white guys holed up in a basement eating Cheetos and askingwhere the Mountain Dew is. That’s the point of her little “experiment,” that most of us have now gone back to work or school or our lives, and aren’t interested in a) assuming the worst of everyone different or b) jumping at every noise from under the bed.
This, however, is the part that made me get up from the table, go get some more coffee, play with the animals a bit and count to ten, several times:
He drew a red mark on my boarding pass. “You know the deal,” he said, ushering me on.
I nodded, but thought, “Uh oh. What deal?” Maybe now I was to be regarded with suspicion?
Before I’d even approached the metal detector, I heard a voice over the loudspeaker say, “Female assistance in Aisle 4.”
OK, now I was nervous. I wasn’t sure how far I was willing to take this experiment. Certainly not so far as an internal examination
Because that’s the thing with little “experiments” like Crittenden’s. That fear she had? If things got too unpleasant for her, she could just whip off her burka and say, “Hee hee, just kidding!” and it would all be okay. The minute profiling actually started to have consequences, she started to worry: What would it feel like, would she be okay, what would happen to her? Never once did she then say to herself, “Hmm, I wonder if this is theactual goddamn consequence of harrassing people who mean no harm.” No, all she could think about was that maybe it was time to opt out of pretending to be someone she wasn’t and go back to her world, where people like her are okay, and suspicion and brutality are for everybody else.