Whether you stereotype, profile, or simply try to identify some unrecognized human being through generally shared comparison criteria, you are bound to be using some process of differentiating individuals which most of us would consider “discriminating.” Shame on you! Doing that isn’t politically correct behavior. But don’t worry, what is politically correct today, may not be so tomorrow if the terrorists from other nations continue to harass us and flaunt their ethnicity, religious beliefs, and weapons of mass destruction!
This is a serious matter that involves our national security. Ask anyone in Washington. We need a better system for spotting potential terrorists, and pronto! Despite all the efforts to embrace diversity in our country, we may have to resort to practicing the old tribal custom and invoke the basic exclusion criteria: “If you copy us in whatever we decide to do, you are our friend. If you don’t, then you are our enemy.” There is no room for middle ground, because our leaders know what they are doing, and they are righteous people! Foreign leaders who oppose them are wrong! May God help you – your God, of course, not ours – especially if you follow those despicable leaders and refuse to bring about a regime change as soon as we tell you to do so!
Since the days of yore when the Cain and Able fable was written down in The Bible, people have been trying to sort out who in the eyes of their Lord is the better person: homo erectus or homo sapiens – always using some criteria that suits their objectivity. Was the criteria used by Jehovah “being a cattleman” that favored Able’s offering and “being a farmer” that rejected Cain’s?
Was it the original settlers like the American Indians, or the subsequent squatters who had the power, wampum, and thunder sticks to confiscate the land? Was it the triumphant victors or the ravished vanquished who deserved the title to the land when outsiders played God after a major worldwide conflagration? And was it our rich and educated forefathers or the poor, uneducated sharecroppers who initially decided to establish the right to own property as the permanent status symbol to distinguish the “haves-a-lots” from the “have-nots?”
Human history is the accounting of the transfer of large segments of land and the peaceful or bellicose use of the resources found on this land. Owning land became a priority in achieving wealth. Land grants from God were considered sacred and eternal as you can observe from the continuous struggle over Israel.
In the beginning, however, land was unofficially confiscated. Each primitive tribe located itself somewhere to take advantage of what the environment had to offer them. The basic animal instinct of marking out territory was apparent in the more aggressive and disadvantaged tribes who sought to survive at the expense of their weaker neighbors. My theory is that territorial jealousy was bequeathed to us humans through our inherited animal genes. Preach the Golden Rule as much as you like, but when it is your life or your neighbor’s, your land or some pretender’s, we know how hard you are going to fight to defend your claim on both.
Accepting diversity, sharing the wealth, helping others in need are nice social concepts, but are the promoters of these basic concepts realistic? It all depends upon what group you join.
Humans today automatically are members in good standing of a family, a state, and a nation when we are born. Later we choose to become a participant in a school system, a neighborhood, a company, a town, a church, a political party, etc. We associate ourselves in our minds if not in our bodies with a variety of social group thinking. Those who join us in our small associations usually think as we do and are considered genuine friends, decent citizens, and intelligent people. Together we support the common good or the commonwealth of our particular social group!
However, when the goals of another equally serious group conflict with those of our group, what then? Is there any room for differences of opinions and objectives that are contrary to ours? Is there room for diversity and tolerance when the opposition aims to end the existence of our benevolent social organization and make us conform to their way of thinking?
The Iroquois Nation of my ancestors has been defeated and absorbed into the United States of America. As a citizen of the United States because I was born in Iowa, I am entitled to the rights of this nation, provided I accept the federal, state, and local governments as my official rulers and dispensers of justice. As soon as parents obtain their infant’s Social Security Number, the baby officially becomes a bona fide member of this nation whose leaders are supposedly just, honorable, and compassionate people who serve the interests of the majority because this country has chosen to be a Democracy. That constitutional form of government is praised by all loyal subjects who delegate the authority to act on the behalf of the citizenry to elected representatives.
What a noble idea! Informed individual citizens voting for honest representatives who possess the integrity, talent, education, and experience required to manage the complicated affairs of this great country. Divided powers to ensure that autocrats can’t ever take over the government.
Unfortunately, history has taught us that despite all the money spent to educate the populace about the qualities of the candidates running for elected office, many corrupt leaders are elected. Unscrupulous lawyers and rich businessmen use the best advertizing experts to help them with their election campaigns.
Although their faces are known to us and their past revealed though the opposition’s thorough investigations, the candidates are suspect, questionably trustworthy statesmen to hold office. So, if diligent voters can’t identify the crooked politicians with dubious intentions using all the information available to us, how will it be possible for common folks to spot the shady terrorist, the crooked con artist, the secretive troublemaker, and the ambitious revolutionary who hides his hatred for us and our institutions and conceals his nefarious plans for wanton destruction of property and human life?
It won’t be easy, but we have our methods. The most obvious one is profiling. Despite its political incorrectness, we use this technique whenever we have to select something. In the produce area of any supermarket, we profile the fruit and vegetables we feel are the freshest to buy. In our forests, the lumberjacks profile the trees they are to cut down, assuming they are not clear cutting a grove. Age, kind of tree, size, etc. are the criteria used to select which trees are going to make the best lumber. All athletes, musicians, and artists are profiled by their coaches, their fans, and their promoters. Service providers are chosen for the quality of the service offered, punctuality in providing that service, and reliability of the work performed.
Employees are profiled, products are evaluated, and even universities are rated. Social groups become known for their contributions to society, and churches for their religious beliefs. In our latest census, individuals are being distinguished in a variety of ways. Most of the time our institutions are trying to place people in some category, to identify them by some criteria, and to rate them by some testing process, so the leaders of these institutions can prove just how diverse they are. The rest of the time these same leaders are trying desperately to avoid any classification of people that is prejudicial, negative, and isolating. Discriminating is deemed necessary, but the inevitable consequences of discriminating are frequently considered undesirable. Double standard here, folks.
We train our children to support their team, to work hard in their classroom groups, and to embrace the unity of whatever organization they belong to. Then, we tell them that it is wrong to exclude anyone from our closed society, even the illegal aliens, the criminals on probation, and the sorry psychological misfits. What is the message? Groups are good and necessary social entities that should be open to everyone regardless of their intentions or their qualifications? Or groups are accepted social institutions which have the right to exclude only certain undesirables?
The government demands that we profile wherever and whenever they say so. Maybe now is the time to profile those who are in this country illegally, who have over-stayed their visa privileges, and who are organized to commit crimes like selling illegal drugs. That is a very difficult task that requires money and ideas to accomplish. Up to now our great democracy cannot bring itself to start serious profiling. The American people are only half-heartedly interested, despite all the demagogic hype about terrorism and schemes to attack innocent America residents here and abroad. Surprisingly, citizens will tolerate the search in our airports for concealed arms and the insinuation that everyone flying is a potential terrorist with shoes wired for suicide missions.
The fear that some stranger in our communities is bent upon causing us trouble and bodily harm has permeated the consciousness of the average concerned citizen. The degree of risk to the vast majority of us has been exaggerated by warnings from our Intelligence authorities. Everyone is suspect, and distrust is growing. Still, the enemy within is unidentified, and the possibility of identifying any individual enemy in your neighborhood is remote. We have pernicious animals like raccoons in our backyards almost every night, but the laws promulgated by the animal rightist movement won’t let us poison them nor trap them. The question is should we be able to trap suspicious criminals and troublemakers who are worse than garden pests?
Is it possible to know who is likely to challenge civil order and commit heinous crimes? We can’t even control the street gangs, the Mafia, and the purveyors of sex and drugs. Parents of children who commit murder at schools don’t even know what their children are planning. In our small groups and informal organizations we don’t know what is on the minds of most of the other members.
Our relationships are mostly casual and superficial. Social graces and political correctness dictate how curious we can be about our neighbors and friends. If anarchists were planning something shocking, they would be most circumspect about how they conducted themselves in public. Don’t you wonder how suicide bombers were so successful in Israel where the security there is as advanced as anywhere in the world?
But over-zealous profiling without the proper safeguards is a dangerous step to take. Such power in the hands of government bureaucrats is almost certain to be abused. Authority to cast aspersions on suspicious characters (a mild form of character assassination) can lead to false indictments, and our legal system simply does not have adequate procedures in effect to reverse injustice quickly that has been hastily or inappropriately rendered. Legal “due process” is agonizingly slow, and any legal action for overturning unjust sentences is very expensive.
Still, profiling is about the only way dangerous and menacing characters can be fingered. We don’t want the kinds of informants to do the profiling that the Russian KGB and the German Gestapo chose to believe, however. (Many of those had scores to settle and revenge on their minds.) Fomenting that distrustful mentality would be worse for our society than the consequences of ignoring the risk we are supposedly running with the inefficient and possibly inadequate national security system we already have in place today.
Well, as I said at the beginning, I don’t plan to profile any stranger until the government gives me permission. There’s a fable I heard that pretty much sums up the dilemma that we face:
Once upon a time there were three beans bragging in a vegetable garden about which of them made the best meal. The first bean said, “With a little salt pork, I make the heartiest Boston Baked Beans.” The red kidney bean said, “But with the right spices, I make the tastiest Chile con Carne.” And the chick pea countered, “Yet neither of you are ever sprinkled on top of a delicious Chef’s salad!”
A hungry crow spotted the three beans arguing and flew down to the garden to see what was going on. After listening to the heated discussion for a few moments he interrupted, “It’s not a good thing to discriminate, so I am going to have each of you for dinner.” Without a moment’s delay, he devoured each succulent bean and flew off very satisfied.
The moral of this story is obvious. All of God’s creatures are important to this complex biosphere in very different ways. Yet, at the end of our allotted time on Earth, each of us provides nutrients for the carrion eaters, the maggots, or the funeral pyres!