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Locking Up America: Moral Majority, Minority Report

Posted by Rick · December 18th, 2004 · 4 Comments

Funny how the United States seems to be one of the few countries that never learns from its mistakes.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

How many remember these words, inscribed in the base of the Statue of Liberty. Right now, there is a very real danger that the Spirit of these words will no longer mean anything in the nation that prides itself on being the Land of Liberty.

I still remember the day I walked out of my office at work and into the tech room because I’d heard what I thought was the most horrifying comment that could ever be made in the land of the Free and the home of the Brave — but it came, after all, from a horrifying man, so typical of Republicans he could be their poster child; a failure at nearly everything he tries, but eager to tell anyone else how to live and, in spite of being unable to tell right from wrong, he’s a firebrand in his belief that he’s always right. A man so ugly, he had even tried to destroy a person who — against his better judgment — gave him a job when he begged for it because, as he had said, he and his family could not possibly survive (by which he meant keep his home) on the unemployment he was again facing.

At the time he made this comment, I’d come to know him as a regressed hominid — more a troglodyte than anything else — incapable of higher thought. Little did I know he was a prophet for the future of America.

His comment? He was explaining to a young woman — none too bright herself, as she was frequently wont to prove — that what we needed to do was lock up all them “AY-rabs.” She — twenty-year-old sage that she was — completely agreed. In her (years of) experience, they were all bad. Today, half of all Americans believe the U.S. government should restrict the civil liberties of Muslim-Americans according to a nationwide poll.”

My co-workers, like these Americans, were unable to see the wrongness of this view. Using a simplified Minority Report calculus, they are convinced this is the appropriate thing to do.

Forgetting they were incapable of thought, I foolishly tried to engage them in a thought experiment. Although unable to handle questions of morality, I figured they could still do math. They were, after all, computer techs (well, one of them was).

“Suppose we take some numbers,” I said. “Imagine that there are only one million Muslims in the United States.” Depending on which survey is accurate, in 2000 there were actually between just over one to seven million Muslims in the United States.

I went on to pick numbers that I knew had to be outrageously high: “Pretend that as many as 10 percent of all Muslims mean to harm us.” So, one out of every ten Muslims, I suggested, is not a potential terrorist, but an actual terrorist. (For those idiots who support the idea of targeting Muslims in America, let me point out that I deliberately picked an astronomically high percentage. It’s more likely far less than one percent of all Muslims in the United States are terrorists. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that the number is so low, relative to all Muslims in the U.S., that it’s virtually immeasurable.)

This would mean that we have 100,000 terrorists in America. Excuse me: Muslim, or “AY-rab” terrorists. (We mustn’t forget that, because there’s a huge element of religious or racial bigotry that’s required for this idea to be so well-accepted.)

So that means that, because we’re too stupid know the difference between a terrorist and a non-terrorist Muslim — hint: the terrorists actually commit terrorist acts; the non-terrorists don’t — we’re going to lock up 900,000 innocent people. If this were the number of people voting for some Republican proposal, we’d say, “Almost a million!” But since it’s not, we’ll say, “just 900,000.”

I don’t know. Still sounds like a big number to me. And remember that my thought experiment depends on a population of only one million. If the number is actually seven million, that means 700,000 terrorists and more than six million innocent people to lock up. If the percentage of terrorists to non-terrorists is lower than 10%, as I’m sure it is…whoa!

“So who,” I asked, “is going to pay for all this?” You see, Muslims don’t stop eating just because you lock them up. Prisons still require cafeterias. They also need electricity, if for nothing else, to keep the guards and other staff comfortable. Oh, and, of course, there’s the cost of building the new camps. Even without gas chambers, they’ll be expensive.

And, of course, the longer we keep these folks in the camps, the more expensive it becomes. This isn’t like World War II, where we knew there was going to be an end to the war and we could release all our interned American citiz— er, uh, I mean Japanese “prisoners of war.”

Like my two co-workers, many of you may be unswayed by this argument. Maybe you think that imprisoning millions — using the actual numbers instead of my hypothetical figures — of innocent people, in order to stop terrorists, is worth the sacrifice if it means the rest of us can live free and safe. As the troglodyte said, “I’d be fine with that, if it meant my family could walk the streets safely at night.” (No, I did not laugh out loud at the idea of his family “walking the streets.” At that point, I still mistakenly thought I could reason with him.)

I said, “Your family cannot walk the streets at night safely now, and that has nothing to do with Arab-Americans!”

And so I tried another tack.

According to this scenario, our “friends” were okay with the idea of locking up 900,000 innocent people because of the 100,000 “bad” people. And remember that I deliberately inflated the percentages of “bad” Muslims to innocent Muslims. In 2000, 924,700 adults were convicted of a felony in state courts. Throw in those convicted in federal courts and the number climbs to nearly 984,000.

Clearly, adults are a problem in our society.

I know, I know. “We can’t lock up all adults, or even all men, just because some large number of them are bad!” Why? Oh, yeah, because they aren’t “AY-rabs.” Locking up millions isn’t a problem in that case. But millions of non-“AY-rabs”?

Never fear, though, we can do better than this. Criminal investigators long ago learned the value of “profiling.” And a “key use of a profile is, when necessary, to go proactive.”

According to the Global Campaign for Violence Prevention, there are certain behavioral indicators that could help us spot wife-beaters, for example. And literally hundreds of thousands of women per year are the victims of this form of abuse. The biggest offenders are poor, young males, with low academic achievement, particularly those who have grown up in families with a history of violence, who tend to drink alcohol and yell at their wives a lot. So why not just lock up all such males? Think of the numbers of women who can safely “walk the streets at night” if we do this!

Not only that, but behavioral science has made terrific strides in other areas, as well. There are all manner of ways to “predict” who is going to commit a crime that are equally as accurate as accidentally being born “AY-rab.”

So why not let the criminal profilers loose and we’ll just lock up the dangerous folk, the folk that — statistically, scientifically, provably — we know are going to commit crimes against humanity. Maybe we just go after those people who are proven enemies of the United States of America — those who would destroy our freedom, decimate our way of life, and rend the fabric of this great nation.

[P]eople who described themselves as highly religious were more apt to support curtailing…civil liberties than Democrats or people who are less religious. “Poll: Nearly half of Americans for limiting Muslim-Americans’ rights” (December 17, 2004) USA Today.


Categories: Social Issues


4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Silvie // Dec 18, 2004 at 12:00 pm

    You know, when I went to school in the US, there was a *huge* emphasis on the idea of the US as the “smelting pot” of nations.

    I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately; several different teachers taught us about the fact that peple from all over the world, with different backgrounds and different origins, had come together here to form a unique amalgam of nationalities that was “smelted” into something new and unique. One teacher in particular was enarmored of the analogy, and I know that she believed it entirely, and felt it was one of the things at the heart of “what made the country great”.

    I’m certain all of the people who talk like your troglodytic colleague will be quick to agree, in theory, that the smelty nature of the US is a unique and wonderful thing, one of the things that prove it is superior to all other countries (when actually, the smeltiness isn’t unique at all), and so on. In practice, it turns out that Ay-rab Americans are not like “good” Americans. As soon as there is the slightest hint of a “reason”, the difference that was there all along comes into sharp relief, to reveal their intrinsic Otherness. They don’t belong here! They’re not “real” Americans at all!

    Neither are African Americans, are they? And what about Mexican Americans, and Cuban Americans, and…

    Not very smelty, is it?

    So much for that smelting pot.

  • 2 Malnurtured Snay // Dec 18, 2004 at 1:06 pm

    Give me liberty, or give me death

    Sixty years ago, it was a Democratic President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who presided over the forced internment of American citizens whose only crime was Japanese ancestry. Make no mistake, FDR is and should be a hero for all progressives in…

  • 3 Gweny // Dec 19, 2004 at 5:01 pm

    OR…we could just lock up all the caveman-like thinkers and make the world safe for the “rest of us.”

    It scares me the way people wear their ignorance like a badge of honor. Lately I’ve seen a lot of “badge flashers” around my country.

  • 4 Malnurtured Snay // Dec 19, 2004 at 8:24 pm

    That’s what you get for being a red-stater, Gweny!

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