Sunday, May 8, 2016

Rising xenophobia

In another incident of hysteria and xenophobia - as we've seen in previous incidents like this one - a blonde passenger on an American airlines flight became suspicious of her seatmate:
On Thursday evening, a 40-year-old man — with dark, curly hair, olive skin and an exotic foreign accent — boarded a plane. It was a regional jet making a short, uneventful hop from Philadelphia to nearby Syracuse. ...

Had the crew or security members perhaps quickly googled this good-natured, bespectacled passenger before waylaying everyone for several hours, they might have learned that he — Guido Menzio — is a young but decorated Ivy League economist. And that he’s best known for his relatively technical work on search theory, which helped earn him a tenured associate professorship at the University of Pennsylvania as well as stints at Princeton and Stanford’s Hoover Institution.

They might even have discovered that last year he was awarded the prestigious Carlo Alberto Medal, given to the best Italian economist under 40. That’s right: He’s Italian, not Middle Eastern, or whatever heritage usually gets ethnically profiled on flights these days.

Menzio had been on the first leg of a connecting flight to Ontario, where he would give a talk at Queen’s University on a working paper he co-authored about menu costs and price dispersion. His nosy neighbor had spied him trying to work out some properties of the model of price-setting he was about to present. Perhaps she couldn’t differentiate between differential equations and Arabic.

Yes, that brilliant American passenger couldn't distinguish mathematics from Arabic. Not that it would have mattered if this man had been writing Arabic. So what? Not that it should have mattered if he'd been of Middle Eastern, rather than Italian, ancestry. What in the world has happened to us?

You can read the whole story here. But it's completely insane. Like Donald Trump's candidacy, it's a triumph of hysteria, xenophobia, and irrational fear over sanity, courage, and common sense.

Actual Islamic terrorists must be laughing their asses off. This is exactly what terrorism is designed to accomplish. It works best on cowards, because cowards overreact. And what better way to destroy America than to encourage America to destroy itself? (They must be overjoyed at the rise of Donald Trump.)

It's bad enough that we have to take our shoes off before boarding a plane, because one guy tried - unsuccessfully - to explode his shoes. And it was certainly disgusting that we were willing to torture prisoners of war because we were scared (or because the Bush Administration wanted to justify their invasion of Iraq, take your pick).

But this degree of hysteria is just ridiculous. Now an Italian economist can't even take a plane in America? Or anyone who speaks Arabic to a relative on a phone? Or any Muslim at all? (Or anyone who even looks Muslim?)

What has happened to the America I love?


jeff725 said...

Hope you are safe after Monday's tornado. Now, to the business at hand:

"What has happened to the America I love?"

Here's AN answer:

“The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer,” D. H. Lawrence wrote. “It has never yet melted.”

This from a Canadian commentor:

"I'll tell you what it is about Americans from a Canadian point of view: Americans are mean. Your comedies are about funny people hurting each other, while your dramas are about mean people hurting each other. Your social policies ensure that when people fail, they fail badly. Your education system leaves too many people out, as does your health system. Your incarceration rates and the absence of well funded rehabilitation programs ensures that there is no redemption or forgiveness built into the system. Your politically divisive issues (guns, abortion, etc) are so childishly discussed that you'd think that everyone in the room was under 12. Your foreign policy has been only and ever entirely self-interested, with high profit margins built into everything. And if you think no one sees that, you are delusional. Finally, your two party system has created an either/or mindset that is nothing short of juvenile - and yet, your entire worldview is based on it. How can you have a domestic political system with only two options, and within that each side rabidly hates each other? How is that in any way helpful or constructive or adult?
I think that if you begin by introducing and supporting a third political party, within a few elections you just might be back on your feet morally and ethically. Binary either/or systems are soul destroying. You are destroying your soul, if you haven't already."

WCG said...

"Here's AN answer"

Hmm,... I'm not sure your link addresses that at all, Jeff. It's one guy's opinion on how American culture compares to that of the rest of the world, but it doesn't address any recent changes, does it?

Cultures do vary. Nations do vary. And in America, at least, we vary a great deal even among ourselves. I think we need to be skeptical of broad generalizations.

Of course, I generalize, too. :) And it's interesting to speculate about. Thanks for the link.

I do, however, vehemently disagree with that Canadian commenter. A third political party is just laughable as a solution to America's problems.

We have two political parties for good reason here. In our system of government, a third party would just throw elections to the people you dislike the most.

Sure, we could amend our Constitution and change our entire presidential system,... but that's not going to happen.

Governmental systems with multiple parties have advantages and they have disadvantages. They're certainly no magic bullet. After all, in a democracy, you still need to get a majority on your side, however you do it.

But when it comes to America, that doesn't matter, anyway. We just don't have that kind of government.

For decades, the far right-wing flirted with a third party. Too bad they weren't actually stupid enough to go for it, huh? They didn't because they knew that would guarantee a win for the Democrats.

In 2000, we saw Ralph Nader voters throw the election to George W. Bush, because they were too... pure (or too naive) to vote for Al Gore. How did that work out? Unfortunately, that still hasn't stopped a handful of morons from pushing the Green Party or the Libertarian Party to this day.

Of course, if it remains just a handful of morons, it shouldn't be a problem (absent another close election like the one in 2000). If progressives are stupid, though, we could split our vote and ensure a win for Donald Trump.

Especially given what happened in 2000, I find the enthusiasm for a third party to be just unbelievably dumb. And in general, I have little interest in a citizen of another country telling me what's wrong with America. I'm well able to determine what's wrong, myself.

And Canadians aren't in universal agreement, themselves. That's just one guy's opinion - a guy who knows less about America than I do. He's free to hold that opinion, of course, but I don't know why I'd pay much attention.

Of course, this whole blog is just one guy's opinion. So I can hardly object to that, huh? And it's not as though I restrict my observations to things I actually know something about. Heh, heh.

Thanks for the comment, Jeff. You always give me something to think about.