Did Southwest Airlines kick a passenger off for speaking Arabic?

Depending on which news account you believe, Southwest Airlines kicked a passenger off and Federal agents searched him because he spoke Arabic or because he made threats. How do we decide between these two claims?

The Daily Californian reports that Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a student at UC Berkeley, “was removed from Southwest Airlines flight 4260, detained by security officers, questioned by the FBI and refused service from Southwest after speaking Arabic before his flight took off.” Makhzoomi is a refugee from Iraq. He claims that an officer searched his genital area in public as police dogs stood by.
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First Amendment suspended in Lowell

The Lowell, Massachusetts police did a very Trumpist thing when Donald Trump came to speak: They set up a “free speech zone,” implying freedom of speech wasn’t permitted elsewhere. I haven’t seen any reports that people were arrested for speaking without permission, but the most visible protesters were apparently intimidated by the massive police presence and stayed in the speech-permitted area.
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Opposing Trumpism with positive values

Trumpism seriously scares me. Not so much Trump himself as Trumpists. When I walked around my neighborhood yesterday, I saw three houses with Trump signs and wondered what kind of people live there. One of them had another sign saying a “badass guard dog” is in the house; maybe that gives a clue.
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On bashing people for their religion

I can bash religion as well as anyone else, but I draw a strong distinction between attacking the fallacies of religion and attacking people for their religious affiliation or expression. Mashable juxtaposed two New York tabloid front pages, both of which I consider seriously offensive. The Daily News quotes four politicians, expressing sentiments such as “our prayers are with the victims,” and declares in huge letters, GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.” The Post says, in slightly larger letters, “MUSLIM KILLERS.”
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Tribalism, not Trump, is the problem

Bill the Cat from Bloom CountyTrump’s campaign is a scary phenomenon. He’s spread fabricated statistics about homicide by blacks, declared he’ll conduct a massive program to expel eleven million people, and declared that all Muslims should be made to register. This would make him the most tyrannical president in my lifetime, at least (Truman was president when I was born), yet for a long time he’s been leading the Republican polls.

Focusing too much on Trump would be a mistake. He’s a gibbering yahoo who just happens to have enough money to disseminate his nonsense widely. The real problem is the large number of people who are receptive to what he’s saying. Xenophobia as a national insanity has turned up again and again in our history. Theodore Roosevelt denounced “hyphenated Americans” and said “there ought to be no room for them in this country.” In the nineteenth century, job ads often specified “No Irish need apply.”

Murderous attacks by religious fanatics have provoked a new wave of xenophobia. The government’s reluctance to say that religious fanaticism is the motive has left a vacuum which people blaming all Muslims have started to fill. The claim “Religion has nothing to with it” is obvious nonsense, but political leaders think Americans aren’t capable of dealing with distinctions between Islamic sects that uphold a barbaric, medieval view and Islam in general. We also have to count the repeated, grossly exaggerated efforts to make us afraid of terrorists. After all that, what’s surprising is that there isn’t more outright violence toward Muslims.
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Is Donald Trump the new Lenny Bruce?

In most of history, in most of the world, tribalism has held the upper hand over liberalism, or liberalism hasn’t had any presence at all. Liberalism’s foothold in the US is weakening, with Donald Trump as the latest example.

I’m not talking about Democratic vs. Republican politics. Donald TrumpBy “liberalism,” I mean valuing tolerance, freedom, and reason rather than orthodoxy, authoritarianism, and tradition. It prospers when people who may disagree on important matters recognize that peaceful communication is better than attempts to silence each other. It can be passionate and angry communication, but it at least tries to make a point rather than simply demonize the opposition.
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Acceptable hatred

For many people today, blanket denunciations of everyone in a group defined by skin color, religion, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, and so on is evil and unjustifiable, but denunciation of everyone in a political party based on spurious claims is enlightened and noble.

Today I saw a tweet by “@PortCityPisces,” someone I don’t know, retweeted by someone who should have had better judgment: “Republicans are Stupid, Racist, and Irrational.” There are at least 50 million registered Republicans in the US, and this person claims to know they’re all stupid, racist, and irrational (including perhaps a million black people) based on the party they designated when they signed up to vote. That is stupid and irrational, though not necessarily racist.

Party affiliation, unlike physical characteristics but like religion, is a matter of choice. Certainly some choices of affiliation are reasons for moral disapproval. Anyone in the KKK is presumably either a racist or an undercover agent. However, there are only two big political parties in the US, so the choices are limited to picking one of them, a minor party, or no party. The politicians elected by both parties have serious problems for anyone who values freedom and justice, but many people think they have to pick a major party or “throw away their vote.” You can say that they’ve made a bad choice, but ascribing serious vices to everyone who’s made it is stupid and disgusting.

It’s depressing that it’s even necessary to say this, but the tribalist mindset, the one that says “My people are good, everyone else is bad,” never goes away. When one target becomes unpopular, it latches on to another.