Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Case of Shoshana Hebshi

Here’s a shocker: I freely admit that I don’t always have the answers to life’s political problems.

Opinionated though I most definitely and obviously am, I’m also a realist. And reality dictates that no person or group gets it right every time; that’s God’s job, not humans’.

I’ve even admitted – to a liberal friend, no less! – that sometimes I wonder whether I’m as right as I think I am on various issues, from welfare to abortion to the UN. To which my friend cheekily stated that maybe I should pray about my opinions, purposely implying that she had no such doubts.

Sadly, her kind of refusal to consider alternatives is exactly what’s wrong with this nation today. In too many people’s minds, they’re right, end of story, no questions asked.

But questioning our beliefs makes us stronger more often than not, helping us to either build better arguments or discard erroneous opinions. Been there, done that many times over. (And just for the record, my beliefs that welfare creates a slave mentality, abortion is murder, and the UN is largely useless still stand after all that.)

The refusal to egotistically assume we are right encourages the productive sense of curiosity that helps us grow as individuals and communities, and allows us to behave like civilized, decent human beings instead of arrogant, self-induced sociopaths.

That is why I freely admit that I don’t know exactly what to say about the U.S. citizen who was escorted off of her flight, strip-searched, detained and questioned on 9/11/11.

Shoshana Hebshi, 35, a “half-Arabic, half-Jewish” American was seated next to two allegedly Indian men she didn’t know, both of whom apparently took repeated bathroom breaks. This activity alarmed others around them enough that, after the flight landed, Hebshi and her row mates were immediately taken into FBI custody.

They’ve all been cleared since.

The thing is, I can build a decent defense for everybody involved. The passengers who reported the Indian men’s activity, the plane’s crew who radioed ahead for help, the FBI who had Hebshi detained and – purposely or not, justly or not – humiliated and inconvenienced: They all probably had good reason to do so, considering recent history and continuing religious and international tensions.

And no human-created or human-run system works perfectly. Even our best plans often result in somebody losing out in some way through no fault of their own.

Yet I can understand how such grand rationalizations, accurate or not, mean little to Ms. Hebshi. And for that, I’m rather at a loss for words.

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