Somewhere around Sheepshead Bay, a guy and his friends got on. The guy was wearing traditional Arab Muslim clothing. Or at least, sort of. He had the kufi (?, long shirt), brimless cap, cotton pants and the sandals, but he wasn’t wearing them quite right. The cap was way too small for him and the pants were rolled up, but not to above the ankles. I don’t imagine he was too concerned about the details, but if you’re going to be a jackass, you might as well do it right.
He was laughing and joking with his friends and passing around a bottle of vodka on the train. I heard them mocking the burqa, and commenting that the man’s female companion should have dressed up like a whore. I heard the guy yell, “Kill the white people! Kill, kill, kill, kill them all! [laughing] … Kill, kill, kill, kill…” Another time, he said, “I’ve got a bomb! Hit the deck!”
The situation was absurd to the point of being slightly surreal. At what point does it become ok to turn free speech into hate speech, to degrade and disrespect an entire culture, just because you don’t agree with some elements of that culture? And by elements, I mean some segments of the society, not elements that pervade the whole. Violence perpetrated by Islamist groups is a problem, yes, but there are violent fools in every culture and we don’t claim them as representative and use them as justification for generalized insults.
Some things are funny and some things aren’t. Just because we possess freedom of speech in the United States doesn’t mean we should toss the concept of appropriateness out the window and ‘say’ whatever we want. We should still have some self-moderation and not generate what is essentially racist hate speech because we’re too stupid to understand the more complex realities in other parts of the world, and too lazy to find out.
Hey bro, I hope no one urinates in your beer tonight, but you deserve it.