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Friday, September 01, 2006

The Arab Scare: Is History Repeating Itself Again

As I look at our society today, I begin to recognize a pattern that I remember learning about in history class. Back in the late 1400's Europeans began to accuse individuals of being "Servants of Satan", a.k.a. witches. They would then drag these individuals into rooms where a confession was tortured out of them. After obtaining a coerced confession, the individual was put on trial with their confession as evidence and they were executed as a result of their connection with evil.

This repeated itself in England in late 1500's and early 1600's, but with more reasonable results where only roughly 20% of the accused were convicted. The other 80% were able to provide counter evidence that the accusations were false. However a dramatic swing occurred later where up to 90% were convicted and this morphed into hangings and burning at the stake which we all equate with the witch hunts.

Fast forward now to the late 1940's and early 1950's. A new epidemic called the red scare erupts where American society becomes afraid of communism and begins to, under the leadership of McCarthy, begin to purge society of anything associated with communism. Even the Cincinnati Reds changed their name to the Redlegs to avoid any association with communism. People had fear, and it began to dominate their actions as false accusations were made against anyone who didn't think like McCarthy thought.

Fast forward again to today's society. The "Arab scare" is beginning. The world is making accusations against anyone who remotely fits the profile of a terrorist. Fortunately we aren't burning at the steak...yet, but I think a reasonable connection can be drawn between these historical events if you watch how the world, and particularly Americans are reacting.

To clarify, I'm not in support of this trend of fear or opposing it either. I'm simply making an observation about how history appears to be repeating itself. On the pro-Arab scare side you could say that we have to do it to protect ourselves from another 9-11 attack. We are saving lives by generalizing who a terrorist might be, even if it is without cause, it has to be done to preserve our society. On the anti-Arab scare side, you could claim discrimination, ignorance and the inability to learn from history's mistakes (assuming you view the red scare and witch hunts as mistakes).

Either way, I find it interesting to observe how our society become gripped with fear about such incidents as this. A simple T-shirt stating "We Will Not Be Silent" caused passengers of Jet Blue airlines to become so upset the airline had to make the man wearing the shirt to put another shirt over it. Evidently a person wearing this t-shirt is able to blow up planes, but as soon as you cover it up with another shirt, like kryptonite to Superman, the supposed terrorist's ability to detonate a bomb disappears. I wonder if Homeland Security is aware of this anti terrorist tactic yet.

On a side note, I have an email into Jet Blue to find out if they are implementing a policy regarding this. If I get any response I'll post it.