A lot has changed since 9/11. But one thing remains the same: There are a lot of bad people out there who want to make us bleed. And as discussed in this issue of Police, the United States is still a very soft and juicy target.
One of the primary reasons that we are still sitting ducks is political correctness. We are afraid to take the steps that would be necessary to prevent future attacks because we are terrified of being labeled Islamophobic or, God forbid, racist.
In contemporary American society, one of the worst things you can call someone is "racist." It's right up there with "child rapist."
No one wanted to be fitted with that scarlet "R." The fear of being labeled racist prevents many Americans from asking why the borders can't be secured, it prevents us from asking why we can't keep a tighter watch on what's going on in the local mosque, and it prevents us from profiling people who may be hostile.
Now I will be the first to say that probably 95 percent of foreign Muslims in our country have no desire to commit acts of violence. But I'd sleep a lot better at night if we had the political will to check up on that other five percent, even if it meant inconveniencing some folks who are totally benign.
I know, I'd feel different if I was one of the innocent folks who was inconvenienced. And that's true. But let me be clear on something here, I'm not talking about rounding up folks and shipping them off to a new Manzanar. I'm talking about a little extra scrutiny.
Here's an example of the kind of thing that bothers me. Last month I was in the main concourse of a major airport hub. There I observed a young (maybe 25 to 30 years old) Pakistani man do something a little weird. He took out a small point-and-shoot digital camera and snapped a shot of a restaurant/bar. There was no one posing for a holiday snap in front of the bar. He just took a shot of the bar, then he pocketed the camera, and moved on.
Now I can think of several innocent reasons why a Pakistani guy might snap a picture of an American airport bar. Maybe he just bought the camera and wanted to try it out. Maybe he worked in the restaurant business and he wanted to steal some of the décor for his joint. Maybe he wanted to show people back home what an American airport bar looks like.
But I can also think of some really sinister reasons he might have snapped that photo. And I can envision it being sent home via e-mail to some guys who might be calculating blast radius and kill zones.
Either way, he moved on before I could bring his presence to the attention of a TSA agent. And even if I had mentioned it to TSA or even the police, what could they have done? Nothing. They would have looked at me like I was racist or paranoid.
But as a college professor told me long ago, "Paranoia may be just a higher state of enlightenment." And this guy's behavior was just odd enough to get my Spidey senses tingling. And is it really racist to note someone's ethnicity when people of that ethnicity are actually trying to kill you?
Honestly, this guy's behavior would have been odd if he was a red-headed Irish dude. So somebody should have asked him what he was doing.
We need to start asking questions in this country. We need to know the answers to things like: Why is that guy taking photos of the airport restaurant? Why is that adult man walking into the local elementary school without showing some kind of ID and demonstrating a reason to be there? Who is screening the backgrounds of the taxi and limo drivers who drive right up to the entrance of the local airport? Did anybody investigate the folks who service the planes at the local airport?
We need to start asking these questions, even at the risk of being thought racist. And political correctness be damned. That's the only way we are really going to make this country safer.
At the recent POLICE-TREXPO East, one of the highlights was a panel discussion about crime on the U.S.-Mexico border that featured sheriffs and other law enforcement officers who deal with the chaos every day. At the end of the session, the panel took questions from the audience. When asked, "Why don't we just build a wall down there?" one of the sheriffs replied, "We don't want to offend anybody."
Trying not to offend anybody is a good life philosophy for an individual. But it can't be the national security policy for a great nation. If it is, it might as well be our epitaph.