SIDDIQUI: Burden of tighter security not being shared by all

March 11, 2017

This has been an interesting month. Over the past month, I have had one child given a swastika at school, another child bullied, and the third feel that complaining is not important because, “This is part of what it means to be in school.” 

The week of the travel ban, I was returning from South Africa for work. I get to Chicago and discover that my TSA Pre-Check doesn’t apply for this trip. I go through regular security and get to my gate to discover that, because of my practice to build in additional time for the routinely “random” screenings, I can make the earlier flight. The gate attendant makes the change, except there is a problem—my new boarding pass has the secondary screening listed. This screening requires me to go back to the TSA desk (at O’Hare, this isn’t close) and go through the screening.

I have a dilemma: Stay with my original flight and don’t do the secondary screening. Or go for the secondary screening and miss my earlier flight. I decide to do both. I know I will miss the earlier flight, but would rather comply with the secondary screening (even though my later-flight boarding pass doesn’t require it) just in case. I do it because I am worried that, if I don’t, I might get into trouble. I do it because I have time to kill. Mostly I do it because I feel it is my civic duty to comply with a governmental public-safety request. My only question is, would someone who had bad intent do the same?

The problem is that our national security has long been about political rhetoric, sound bites and incomplete information. With President Trump, add paranoia, confusion, incompetence and bigotry.

We have determined that, if we choose to focus the burden on one group of people—Muslims—we will be safe. This is despite the fact we have terrorist attacks in our country perpetuated by non-Muslims in large numbers. Recent U.S. Justice Department statistics suggest that white supremacists have perpetuated more attacks than Muslims.

If we truly want to be safe, let’s employ mechanisms used by many other countries: Make secondary screenings mandatory for all passengers. Don’t forget about trains and other means of transport. Inspect all containers coming into this country—and all vehicles at our border crossings. Ask schools, universities and hospitals to report people who seem unstable.

Do I sound absurd? We have chosen as a nation to balance security with freedom. The problem is that the burden is not being shared by all. We believe that, by focusing on one faith community, we will be safer.

What makes me sadder is that, when I share the stories about the hate crimes being perpetuated on my own children, I get one of three responses. My friends who supported Clinton see this as another confirmation of their worst fears about Trump. Trump supporters (who are also my friends) attack me for being political—no empathy. Some Trump-supporter friends who don’t want to attack simply remain silent. I am surprised (and deeply saddened) by the lack of empathy and the level of indifference shown by people who have been friends for a long time.

What people on both sides don’t realize is that the bigotry has been in place a long time; it didn’t start with Trump, just as racism didn’t end with the election of President Obama. But we also need to realize that, over the past two months, it has gotten much, much worse. For the first time, my Hoosier-born children who have known no home but this city are suggesting I look elsewhere to keep them safe.•

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