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
Photo by Jeanne RiceSo I might be a terrorist, but I'm not completely sure; I'm still waiting for the government to let me know. Like many Orange Countians—150,000, give or take—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 conveniently create fictitious wars around election years? Not me.
I don't feel like a terrorist, but who am I to question the sophisticated methods used in our nation's counterterrorism agencies, as infallible as our nation's leaders. With new, cutting-edge advancements in technology, today's terrorists can be easily tracked down 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 my father 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-colored 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-Terrorist Division 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 enemies of the state can now be found at your local coffee shop—doughnuts were not discussed.
How'd the meeting with the detective go? It didn't. My father, who's 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 an inspector for the food industry. Each time she enters an airport, without fail, she somehow gets "randomly" picked for luggage searches. It was bad enough before Sept. 11, 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 as well as the students at the school. Patriots showed their allegiance to this country by standing outside 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. Having grown up in a refugee camp in Palestine, he's seen more than his share of "Detective Boyds" throw around allegations disguised in the shadow of the Law. 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. His family had sacrificed everything they had to send him to America so he could have opportunities here that weren't available in Palestine. But even in the land of the free and privileged, my father continues to be that second-class citizen. Still, 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 he has away.
My family is not alone in our circumstance; the entire Muslim community, especially in Orange County, is being held under close watch. My mosque is a hotbed for terrorists; it's where terrorists are created, or so CNN would like you to believe. Following the May 26 release of the FBI's Top Seven Suspected al-Qaeda Operatives—which included OC native Adam Gadahn—the CNN van, equipped with a 10-foot broadcasting pole and correspondent Thelma Gutierrez, camped itself outside our Garden Grove mosque. "When he was 17," they reported, "he joined the Islamic Society of Orange County, declaring himself a Muslim. And that's when the trouble began!" [Cue the dramatic music and cut to a picture of little Muslim kids swinging on a jungle gym with giant, bold lettering underneath that says, "THE ENEMY."]