Having lived in San Diego since 2006, I’d like to think I’ve become immune to idiots. There are “normal” people here, but they are the exception that proves the rule. It’s been rather like living in a foreign country – a foreign country that looks a lot like America circa 1999. There are actual yuppies (and aspiring yuppies) here, for Pete’s sake. I keep waiting for Patrick Bateman to show up, having aged ten years and moved to the West Coast because New York was getting a little too uncomfortable, if you know what I mean.
Anyway, idiocy has become less novel and more blase with each passing year spent here. Still, even I am sometimes taken aback by the maddening ignorance displayed by my fellow San Diegans. Over the weekend, an Iraqi immigrant was murdered in El Cajon, in what the police are calling a possible hate crime. (I’m not a fan of the term, but whatever.) This is a terrible crime, a brutal end to a young woman’s life, and of course, every jackass with a mic has got an opinion. So I’m flipping through the AM stations this afternoon, and I come across this guy, Merrill, who is railing against the obvious racism at play in this horrible situation.
He cited his time in the Midwest amongst “a lot of rednecks” as proof that too many people see someone who is “brown” and “wearing a headscarf” as a terrorist. He then proceeded to mock anyone who dared question the “hate crime” angle, especially those who brought up the topic of – shhh – honor killings. He was ridiculing the idea that honor killings are on the rise in this country, and that people who worry about those sorts of things are fantasists.
Just as we don’t know what happened in the Trayvon Martin case, we also don’t know what happened in Shaima Alawadi’s case, and prudence is therefore to be advised. A note saying “Go back to your country” could be an indication of a hate crime or it could be a red herring. I know some very fine SDPD officers and I think we should let them do their job before casting aspersions on anyone.
Granted, I didn’t hear but about ten minutes of Merrill’s show – he could very well have made many eloquent, well-reasoned arguments to support his viewpoint. I don’t really care. More than anything, it was the dismissal of the idea that honor killings are on the rise that irritated me. Women and girls are being killed by family members in the name of honor at an alarming rate in this country and throughout the Western world. This isn’t domestic violence, as it is often classified in America; this is brutally killing a woman under the premise of maintaining one’s family honor. How ambush-killing someone who trusts you implicitly is somehow honorable, is beyond me.
My problem isn’t with this AM talking head; I’m usually listening to something else at that time anyway. It’s the prevailing belief in American culture that bad things simply cannot happen here. Bad things are already happening here. In Arizona, New York, Texas, California, Missouri – the list goes on. Canada. Britain. France. The Netherlands. All of the traditional capitals of the West have been touched by this decay. Violence against women happens under various guises. Discounting one form because it seems too politically volatile or distasteful does its victims no favors.
What we call civilization is but a thin veneer on the surface of our primitive human nature. It is easily stripped away in tribal situations, in cases of radicalized religion, in times of strife. Just because you don’t believe it can happen doesn’t mean it won’t. It’s not like it’s voodoo or anything.