Blogs > Cliopatria > The Highways Are Watching

Jun 30, 2004 9:11 pm

The Highways Are Watching

Department of Homeland Security is forging ahead with Highway Watch- a program to train truck drivers to spot terrorists on the road. Amanda Ripley reports in the Time that the program hopes to ultimately recruit up to 400,000 people. It is an off-shoot of Operation TiPs (DOJ) that urged people to keep an eye out for suspicious people. The Department of Homeland Security is conducting workshops where truckers are instructed in the fine art of terrorist-watching:
After the session in Little Rock, two newly initiated Highway Watch members sat down for the catered barbecue lunch. The truckers, who haul hazardous material across 48 states, explained how easy it is to spot"Islamics" on the road: just look for their turbans. Quite a few of them are truck drivers, says William Westfall of Van Buren, Ark."I'll be honest. They know they're not welcome at truck stops. There's still a lot of animosity toward Islamics." Eddie Dean of Fort Smith, Ark., also has little doubt about his ability to identify Muslims:"You can tell where they're from. You can hear their accents. They're not real clean people."
That we live in a world that forces vigilance upon us for our own safety is undebatable. But we also live in a world where people get shot for wearing turbans or get arrested for saying"bring it down" at a Shoney's. Forget that the terrorists have no club rule that states membership is only for smelly, bearded arabs. Instead what alarms me is that hatred and suspicion is being legitimized by the State within civil society. These truckers are not public servants. They are ordinary citizens who will bring their now-validated prejudice to their communities. Wherever they interact with their fellow brown Americans, they will keep an eye askance. A member of the"Islamics" group, I am about to take a road trip for the 4th of July weekend. I will keep you posted if I see anyone suspicious.
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Jonathan Dresner - 7/1/2004

As I said, Yikes. I seem to also recall that one of the few people killed in the US in the wake of the September 11 attacks was a Sikh.

I also seem to recall that carrying a dagger is an important cultural practice: presumably they've found some way to reconcile not carrying it during air travel.

Note to self: keep teaching World History.....

Manan Ahmed - 7/1/2004

Indeed. Turbans are a Sikh custom and the exchange took place AFTER the training.

Jonathan Dresner - 7/1/2004

Pardon me if I'm mixing up my cultures (I'm an East Asianist, after all) but I'm pretty sure that turbans (outside of the actual desert) are a Sikh custom. This was AFTER the briefings?


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