Tuesday, May 08, 2007


You run across some incredible stuff on the web. While perusing one of Portlander Deb on the Web's recent posts about something amazing, something charitable, something she must have and something she must eat, there was also something she found maddening.

It was a post from Shippenburg (PA) University English professor and poet Kazim Ali about taking out the trash. What's maddening about that, you might well ask? Did he not pull out his recyclables? Did he not separate his glass from his plastic? It turns out that what is maddening about Kazim Ali's trash is that when he pulled up to the university trash bins, took out a box of poetry manuscripts to recycle and put it next to the bins, a person from the ROTC building next door called the local police and said that "a man of Middle Eastern descent...had just placed a box next to the trash can."

What happened next? Ali writes:

"Because of my recycling the bomb squad came, the state police came. Because of my recycling buildings were evacuated, classes were canceled, campus was closed. No. Not because of my recycling. Because of my dark body. No. Not because of my dark body. Because of his fear. Because of the way he saw me. Because of the culture of fear, mistrust, hatred, and suspicion that is carefully cultivated in the media, by the government, by people who claim to want to keep us safe.

"These are the days of orange alert, school lock-downs, and endless war. We are preparing for it, training for it, looking for it, and so of course, in the most innocuous of places - a professor wanting to hurry home, hefting his box of discarded poetry - we find it.

"That man in the parking lot didn't even see me. He saw my darkness."

And when it was discovered that his recycling was, indeed, just that, did the police apologize to Ali for the trouble? No, they told him that he needed to be more careful about how he behaved. The university told him that the young man's call had nothing to do with his race or ethnic background, and that they appreciated his "cooperation during the incident and remind everyone that safety is a joint effort by all members of the campus community."

I don't know about you, but his story scares me to pieces.


Alan Cordle said...

Here's a small world item for you: http://www.foetry.com/newbb/viewtopic.php?t=807

Kazim runs a press I criticized, but I still think what happened to him sucks.

Kathleen Bauer said...

I was wondering if you might know of him. And yes, what happened to him does suck, and what is happening to us sucks, too. Glad we were reminded.

Anonymous said...

Holy Crap!!! I almost spit out my morning coffee as I read this post. I REALLY want to go live on some remote tropical island and forget the rest of this insane world exists...but then again, that would be the easy way out.
Uuck...I feel sick to my stomach now.

Kathleen Bauer said...

I know. What we've allowed to come into our midst is sickening. It's not just "those (dark/Arab/not 'us') people"...just look at how his colleague who came to his defense was treated.

Someone said it was like the McCarthy era, but I think it's worse. At least McCarthy held his hearings in public. Most, if not all, of the current policy is being carried out in secret because of so-called "national security" concerns. Meaning they can do whatever they want whenever they want to whomever they want and can't be held to account. Now that's not only sickening, but terrifying.

Deb said...

I'm glad you posted the story on your blog as well. We should get it out to as wide an audience as possible.

Kathleen Bauer said...

I totally agree...and thanks for your sharp eye for putting it up on yours first!