War and Prejudice

From an Associated Press article that appeared on Yahoo last week:

Two Muslim religious leaders say they were asked to leave a commercial airliner in Memphis on Friday and were told it was because the pilot refused to fly with them aboard.

Both passengers are Memphis-area residents. Rahman said he was dressed in traditional Indian clothing and his traveling companion was dressed in Arab garb, including traditional headgear.

Rahman said he and Mohamed Zaghloul, of the Islamic Association of Greater Memphis, were cleared by security agents and boarded the plane for an 8:40 a.m. departure.

The aircraft pulled away from the gate, but the pilot then announced the plane must return, Rahman said. When it did, the imams were asked to go back to the boarding gate where Rahman said they were told the pilot was refusing to accept them because some other passengers could be uncomfortable.

Rahman said Delta officials talked with the pilot for more than a half-hour, but he still refused.

As abhorrent as I find this type of profiling behavior, once I got beyond my initial outrage after reading the article, I began to think about how particularly common this kind of behavior is during times of "war". Whether the war is a military one fought on battlefields or an ideological one fought in the space of individual and public opinion (or both, as we seem to be living through at the present time), war urges us to judge and separate the bad fromt the good.

The human ego is inherently disposed to fear and be suspicious of that which is "different," which is ultimately what gives rise to bias. And superficial segregation and broad-brush stereotyping are among its most preferred tools for dealing with this kind of fear.

In this sense, profiling is not just about bias. It is also about efficiency and expediency. The broader the brush, the less the ego has to think about or ponder the limitations of its decision making process (let alone the consequences of that process) and therefore the quicker it can get back to a state of presumed security and control. A strictly black or white outlook is very effective at settling the mind,  if not the emotions. And during times of war, in our desire to feel right, safe and most of all normal, we often take whatever relief or salve we can get.

From a moral and philosophical perspective, I do not agree with, and choose not to condone, the process of profiling. Yet from a purely human ego perspective, I not only understand it but I also deeply appreciate its appeal.

My inner sense of inspiration to love more openly always seems to inevitably run into my also compelling desire to feel free of danger.

And in the midst of that conflict I find myself over and over needing to take sides and having to choose.

We all must choose...

love or fear?