Friday, August 19, 2005

A Troubling Scenario...
I am planning to travel soon and I can't help but think that somehow, someway, that I or my luggage, may be subjected to one of them thar "random searches" being conducted by the NYPD. Now, I don't dread this slightly annoying, but seemingly necessary, event because I have anything to hide --- I won't be carrying drugs, firearms, explosives or a vial of deadly bacteria, I dread it because of the stupidity that sometimes rules these "random" searches.

Let's say, for the sake of example, that I'm standing there in Pennsylvania Station, patiently awaiting my train (which will invariably be late). I will be alone, probably with my luggage close to hand, and seeming to be nervous because I would rather be moving than standing still. Meanwhile, not 10 feet away from me, there will be a Middle Eastern-looking man, reading aloud from the Koran and wearing a parka in August.

According to the rules of "random" searches, the police would not be able to search the other man because that would be "racial profiling". Unless he commits some overt act that would give the police cause to investigate him or his behavior, the fervor to be seen as "culturally sensitive" or "fair", would give him a free pass. Should he pull a grenade from inside of his parka, however, it's a different story. In other words, in order to avoid charges of "racial profiling" or "violating" the man's "civil rights", he would not be the first target of a "random" search.

But I'm a white male, so I'm fair game.

You know, there was a time in this country when the police were expected (and encouraged) to act upon the obvious. If a police officer saw a scruffy, shabilly-dressed man walking the streets of Forest Hills at 3 a.m., a television set in his arms, they would have assumed that he had just burglarized someone's home. Nowadays, any lawyer worth his salt would merely claim the man was an eccentric who liked to take his television out for late night walks. In other words, if the police merely went by what decades of experience in crime fighting had taught them, this man would have been "profiled". Profiling is bad juju.

What would you think if you saw two young white men, double-parked in a Mercedes with New Jersey plates, on a street in Harlem after midnight? In the old days, you would think that perhaps these were two young men who left the suburbs to buy drugs. They certainly are not there to visit their sick aunt.

In days past, when the police acted when faced with such situations, it was known as "doing their jobs". In this day and age, a police officer has very little latittude and has to wait until he witnesses an overt act. Very often, that overt act leads to someone being hurt or killed and the police acting after the fact.

So, as New Yorkers "voluntarily" open their briefcases and suitcases for police who are looking at everyone except those that can reasonably be expected to be up to no good, I can solace in the fact that such activity just might --- might --- turn up the odd psychopath who in days past would have merely shot up the Post Office. However, the chances of capturing a terrorist or preventing a terrorist act are the same as me growing wings and laying golden eggs, or of Ted Kennedy passing up a free-bourbon-and-sex-starved-secretary party: slim to sodding none.

While it's nice to be "culturally sensitive", in this case it's damn near suicidal.

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