By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
So I might be a terrorist, but I'm not completely sure. . . . I'm still waiting for the government to let me know. Like so many Orange Countians--150,000, to be exact--I fit the description of a possible terrorist. What's that exactly? Does she walk around with a .38 Smith & Wesson, slaying heathenish infidels? Nope. Does her normal wardrobe include an "I [heart] Osama" T-shirt? No way, I tossed that out with my "I [heart] the New Kids on the Block" shirt ages ago. Does she create fictitious wars conveniently around election years? Hardly, but I may need to start a small riot if Avril Lavigne is ever allowed to put out another album.
The sophisticated methods used in our nation's counterterrorism agency are as infallible as our nation's leaders. With new advancements in technology, terrorists can be easily tracked down today based on two factors: their last name and their country of origin. Forgive me, Big Brother, for I, having the last name of "Afghani" and being from, well, Afghanistan, have thusly sinned twice. My being Muslim is simply an added bonus.
My family was contacted last August via post card--I suppose our Morse Code machine must have been down at the time. The piss-color post card was addressed from Detective Boyd of the Los Angeles Police Department and asked us to "PLEASE CONTACT."
My father, the original Afghan in the family, had the honor of placing the call to the Anti-Terrorism Department at the LAPD. The conversation between my father and the detective basically resulted in the understanding that we, the Afghani family, were on some sort of a list that their highly developed computers had created. The detective wanted us to set up a meeting with him sometime in the near future. Where? Well, it seems the preferred meeting place for police and thieves can now be found at your local coffee shop (talk of doughnuts was not discussed).
How'd the meeting with the detective go? It didn't. My father, a decrepit old man verging on his 70th year of life and his 45th year of living in this country, was not going to meet in some seedy cafť to discuss being possibly associated with any terrorist organizations just because of his last name and country of origin. He simply let this matter drop.
My family is no stranger to suspicion from law enforcement and other praiseworthy members of society. My sister travels by plane almost weekly for her work as a quality-assurance technician for one the country's largest fast-food companies. Each time she enters an airport, without fail, she somehow gets "randomly" picked for luggage searches. It was bad enough when the various cooking utensils (scales, thermometer) she must lug around caused airport personnel to regard her as a coke dealer. Now, constantly singled out from her co-passengers, she wears only flip-flops to the airport.
My mother teaches at a Muslim elementary school. During the first Gulf War, back when Papa Bush was in office, she received numerous death threats to herself and to the students at the school. Patriots showed their allegiance to this country by standing outside of the school gates, yelling obscenities and promises of retaliation at the teachers and students for what their people had done. Years later, not much had changed. After Sept. 11, the death threats got so bad that the local police department had to keep daily watch at the school for fear that some God-loving, flag-waving American might actually keep one of their promises.
But no one in my family has suffered as much as my father. My old man's been through a lot: leaving one war-torn country, Afghanistan, for another, Palestine, for another. Growing up in a refugee camp, he's seen more than his share of "Detective Boyds" throw around fascist allegations disguised in the shadow of the Law. During that time, he experienced the true meaning of hatred. He lost friends, family members and possessions to government-issued bullets, bombs and tanks. He was considered a second-class citizen because of his ethnicity and religious beliefs. But his family had sacrificed everything they had only to send him to America so he could have opportunities here that weren't available to him in Palestine. But even in the land of the free and the privileged, my father continues to be that second-class citizen. And he didn't work his way through college by shoveling donkey crap on a farm in Pomona, receiving a degree in architecture and engineering at Cal Poly, only to live a relatively mundane life and let some badge who knows nothing about him take what little he has away now.
My dad knew nothing good could have come from this meeting with Detective Boyd except a handcuffed walk down to Room 101--actually Room 702, according to the post card. If the cops thought he was a terrorist because of his last name, they probably wouldn't be convinced otherwise over an $8 cup of coffee from Starbucks, froth or no froth. You gotta love his balls.
So eight months later, I'm left asking myself, what happened? Isn't the government going to pursue this surefire method of catching the bad guy? Aren't they going to apprehend the very people striking fear in the hearts of the ever-so-victimized American society? Shouldn't my 69-year-old father be marking the days off a cell wall in Guantanamo right now? The weird thing, considering the historic reliability of police-department and other government officials, was that no follow-up was ever made.