Neither here nor there -
My Grade 2 teacher in 1952 liked to involve the kids in managing how the classroom functioned. We took turns in cleaning the blackboards and pinning the pictures we had painted on the bulletin board. My favourite task was opening the windows high on the wall, next to the ceiling, very, very far overhead for a four foot something boy. It involved a 12-foot long pole with a hook on the end that had to be inserted into a small ring on the window latch. When it came my turn, in front of my watching classmates, I had to pull on that ring, which drew back the striker, releasing the window, which would swing down, letting in a welcome stream of fresh air.
Our teacher introduced fresh air into the administration of classroom discipline too. If she was uncertain which pupil had broken a rule, she would put it to the class, asking for the guilty party to own up. If that didn't happen by the time the bell rang for recess, we would all remain seated. The lure of running around outdoors was usually too much to forego. Either the guilty party or someone who knew their name, would put up their hand. We all had no choice but to take part. It ensured that the running of the little society that existed within the four walls of our classroom was a shared responsibility.
Our teacher's name was Miss Freitag. Seven years after the end of WWII, the name Freitag caused some parents to whisper that having a German in charge of we children was an outrage. To their credit, other parents spoke out clearly: Miss Freitag was a Canadian. Yes, her parents had come from away, like so many in Canada, but it was not the origin of her name that should be judged, but her performance in the classroom.
Sadly, the people running Homeland Security in the United Sates never had the good fortune to be taught by Miss Freitag.
Apparently neither did U.S. President Barack Obama.
It's a pity. Listening to him campaign a little over a year ago it truly sounded like he shared Miss Freitag's views on inclusion, civic responsibility and participation. In fact, many people around the world were inspired by the election of Barack Obama. They welcomed the glow of hope he appeared to generate, banishing the dark shadows of America's recent past.
If Miss Freitag had taught him, Barack Obama would surely never have said yes to U.S.Homeland Security's lame and dangerous idea of singling out citizens of 14 specific countries for increased air travel scrutiny. This amounts to finding people guilty in advance of a crime that hasn't been committed yet. A crime that the President of the United States predicts is going to happen.
Discriminating against people on the basis of skin colour, gender or religion is specifically forbidden in the constitutions of many countries. More important, it is also guaranteed to insult and anger the people who have been singled out. Some of them will likely be so angry that they will take action, and the predicted crime will indeed come to pass. There are a lot of things you could say about this policy, but let's try to be polite. If its purpose is to ensure safety and peace, the most accurate think you can say about it is that it doesn't work.
If Miss Freitag was Obama's teacher, she'd probably, gently but firmly take hold of Barack's ear, something that's not hard to do, and say:
"Wouldn't it be better to treat everyone at airports the same way? Discriminate against no one?"
Miss Freitag is onto something here. It would encourage those not planning trouble to put pressure on those who are. Instead of creating terrorists by insulting identifiable groups, you could enlist the help of the entire world community to weed out the trouble makers and with any luck at all, by the time the bell rings for recess the problem would be solved.
Releasing his ear, Miss Freitag might take hold of Obama's shoulders and in a quiet voice say, "I see a bright future ahead Barack. You're a smart young fellow. There are no flies on you. You don't need a no-fly list."