Saturday, August 05, 2006

Accusations of Terrorism and un-Americanism

I'm going to tell this story as straight-up and with as little embellishment as possible, saving my opinions for the end. I also am going to be very careful to put only direct quotes I can swear to word-for-word in quotes.

Today a man in my neighborhood came to our door and asked us to sign a petition opposing a local business's application for a liquor license. We asked him why he was opposed, and he informed us that the proprietors were terrorists and funding Hezbollah.

"That's a fairly extreme accusation," I said, and my husband asked for proof.

He said he had "inside information" from police and FBI sources that the man was a terrorist. My husband said he'd need to see ACTUAL proof before signing a petition based on accusations of funding terrorism.

"That's fine," the petitioneer said. "But you're supporting terrorists. You're unpatriotic and un-American."

"I BEG your pardon?" I asked.

"I've lived here fifty years and we don't want YOUR KIND here in this neighborhood. Go back to Boston," he said.

He then said that he knew I was a troublemaker and I'd already made trouble for "several" families on the block. I asked him what he was talking about, and he said, "You know what you've done."

A few more words were exchanged, in more or less the same vein, and my husband escorted him off our property and told him not to come back.

I am ashamed to admit that after he left, I cried. I hate the thought of someone living a few houses down from me HATING me with such intensity. I hate the thought of my neighbors talking about me behind my back (although I don't think they are), and I have not knowingly caused trouble for ANY of my neighbors, other than occasionally relating harmless antics on my blog (which most of my neighbors read, and I generally get permission to relate a story if I think there's even a chance it might embarass or hurt feelings.).

There are so many things wrong with this situation.

First, if he has "inside information" about an ongoing FBI or police investigation, he probably ought not be TELLING THE ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOOD about it.

Second, I'm not really accustomed to living in a world where people come to your house and insult you. Insult you in an academic debate, or a political setting, or a newspaper or blog, fine. But come TO YOUR HOME and call you un-American, unpatriotic, and a supporter of terrorists? Accuse you of all manner of nastiness? That's soooooo far beyond the pale of what I consider polite society. (It may be that more than anything else that took me aback and upset me.)

Third, we are not particularly vociferous about our political beliefs. We have never had signs in our yards or bumper stickers on our cars. I have met this man once before and didn't discuss politics with him then. I admit that I am generally to the left side of the political spectrum, but I don't consider myself an "American-style" liberal, as it is currently construed, and that's why I'm not registered with the Democratic party. I am also libertarian on several issues, and conservative on a few. My husband's political orientation is different from mine, but as he's a VERY private person, I'll leave that to him to tell you if he wants to. So unless he was making comments about my politics based on my age or appearance, I THINK he just threw that out there because we didn't immediately sign his petition.

Fourth, I have only been to Boston once. But I am now seriously considering putting a Boston Red Sox banner or sign of some sort in my front yard.

Fifth, I have only heard people say "We don't want YOUR KIND here" before on Very Special Episodes of sitcoms where everyone learns an important lesson about diversity.

Sixth, I have never, ever in all the years of people hating me for my opinions had anyone tell me to leave town before. Never.

Seventh, the new corrolary to Godwin's Law needs to be that anyone who accuses their perfectly polite opponent of lack of patriotism and un-Americanism automatically loses the argument. This should also apply in Congress. This as a mode of discourse in modern American REALLY PISSES ME OFF. The whole point of living in a democracy is that people of goodwill can disagree - vehemently - while both wanting what's best for their country. That doesn't make us UN-American -- that makes us MORE American.

Eighth, this is possibly the least effective strategy to get someone to sign your petition in the history of the world.

There are some points here that I can't speak to. I don't know if the petitioneer is a bigot. I'm not inside his head, and as I've discussed before, I'm not really that into hate crimes. I don't know if the proprietor of the store in question is a terrorist. I'm not privvy to that kind of law enforcement information -- or to the inside of the proprietor's head. I honestly don't even know if he's Muslim or not; he's obviously of Middle Eastern extraction, but I don't know if he's Christian or Muslim; I don't know if he was born in the U.S. or abroad; I don't know if he's Arab or Persian or Kurdish or what. I don't know if the petitioneer's problem is the race or religion of the store's proprietor, or if he is a closet prohibitionist with liquor, or if he dislikes immigrants, or if he really does have the inside track on local terrorism investigations. I can't speak to his motives, or to the store proprietor's personal life, and I'm not going to make statements without evidence (which was what pissed the petitioneer off in the first place).

This is also not an indictment of conservatives, and while I do not typically censor comments on this blog, I WILL be deleting knee-jerk blanket attacks on "conservatives" or "liberals" (or "Republicans" or "Democrats") in this case. I do not believe I can in any honesty call this man a conservative; reactionary is probably a far better term. Most conservatives I know have well-reasoned opinions that happen to differ from mine on some issues. This man was angry, spouting off, and seemed uninformed.

And now, I guess, I HAVE officially caused neighborhood ruckus.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Eyebrows,
Of course you cried! This man personally attacked you in your home. It was a threatening situation. He is obviously uninformed. He reminds me of that Junior Senator from Wisconsin, Joe McCarthy

Andrew said...

I agree. That is an incredibly stressful situation. We all wish we could keep our cool in those times, but few of us can. You should give yourself permission to be human and not be too hard on yourself. I hope you can find a way to feel better soon.

To Love, Honor and Dismay

Anon E. Mouse said...

How long have you lived in Central Illinois? Well, sometimes it takes a while to meet the neighborhood nut. (BTW, if you haven't met your own neighborhood nut, you probably ARE the neighborhood nut!)

Next time he attacks, be ready. Look him in the eye and say, "When I see a solar eclipse, like the one I went to last year in Hawaii, I think 'Oh no! Is the moon eating the sun?' I don't know. I'm a caveman; that's the way I think.", or maybe "When I see my image on the security camera at the country club, I wonder, are they stealing my soul? I get so upset, I hop out of my Range Rover, and run across the fairway to the clubhouse, where I get Carlos to make me one of those martinis he's so famous for, to soothe my primitive caveman brain. But whatever world you're from, I do know one thing: My husband is " and fill in the opposite of whatever he is being accused of.

I don't know if it would win the arguement, but it would
A. Confuse the hell out of the guy.
and
B. Be funnier than hell.

C. J. Summers said...

What a neanderthal. Did he confront any of your other neighbors, or just you? Please tell me no one signed that petition....

I swear, that read like an episode of the Twilight Zone. Outrageous!!!

Isaac said...

I hope you don't decide to re-write your Dear Peoria post to reflect a new view of the neighborhood.

And after re-reading your account of the scenario, I'd say you handled yourselves unbelievably well.

Eyebrows McGee said...

My husband wants me to add that the petitioneer also called us "liberals" as if it was a dirty word, more than once. And that he accused us of being "protestors" as in "You protestors ..." then something about ruining America. (As noted, I tried to stick to the quote I was positive I could remember verbatim, without any variation in wording.)

I'm trying to remember the last time I attended an actual protest, and I think it was in college. I'm not such a huge fan of crowds.

Responses to responses in the a.m.

O'Brien's Briar Patch said...

EM,

I strongly suggest you do put that Boston Red Sox flyer in your yard.

A quick story about one of the best/worst lessons ever learned.

About fifteen years ago I bought my parents a police scanner because my mother expressed interest in listening to police calls. They live in a smaller town.

At about this time and even though probably illegal, they learned they could pick up the phone calls of neighbors on cheap cordless phones and what they overheard shocked them. Neighbors who they thought were good friends said terrible things about them to other people.

It showed them we are never immune to people and their nasty behavior. This also changed them a great deal and in some ways hurt them as well.

So don't feel bad because some crankpot is a rotten bastard. Just move on and become stronger for it.

Eyebrows McGee said...

I'm in a much rosier mood this morning about the whole thing. I woke up and immediately knew that what I should have said, when he said, "We don't want YOUR KIND here" was "Well then why don't you get up a petition about THAT?"

Anon and Andrew, thanks for the support. My husband was able to laugh it off, but it really upset me initially. It's good to know I'm not the only person who'd react that way.

Mouse, I've been here two years. And Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer definitely seems like a good option!

CJ, he apparently goes around with petitions a lot and some people sign them just to shut him up. I also heard (and this is nothing but hearsay) that he wasn't presenting the "terrorist" reason to everyone he approached.

Isaac, I know, I thought that was so funny, that I just wrote about how warm and nice Peorians are, and because Murphy's law rules the universe, mean neighbor man has to appear.

O'Brien, it makes me sad too. Adulthood shouldn't be quite so much like being in high school.

debra said...

EM,

I'm so sorry you had to experience that. And I'm particularly sad that people today still pass judgement based on ethnicity, religion, or any other stereotypical depiction of who "those people" are.

People who fear to that degree are the ones I fear the most.

Mahkno said...

This smells something akin to the incident in Pekin that Dennis blogged about. I think it was Pekin... some foreign looking owner and all the staff quitting. The liquor store owner ought to be made aware that this nut job is out there.

Billy Dennis said...

Insults cannot go unpunished. Send me this man's name and address so I may adequately address the situation on my blog.

Please DO NOT but a Red Sox sign in yoru yard. No need to debase yourself.

This sort of whispering smear campaign is all to common all over America.

Billy Dennis said...

Of COURSE they support Hezbollah. They have brown skin and speak with an accent. What a Dumbass.

Anonymous said...

This kind of black-and-white, "if you disagree with me, you are supporting the terrorists!" thinking creeps me out. People like this are not usually rational: they are fanatics in the true sense of the word.

The core of American justice is "innocent until proven guilty". Anyone who doesn't get on board with that concept is un-American, whether they "support terrorists" or not.

Dorothy

JasonS said...

Are Muslims known for seeking liquor licenses? That's like an Amish guy getting a drivers license.

Don't sink to his level. Let it go.

He's a silly, sad man.

Anon E. Mouse said...

Speaking of terrorism -

Peoria Pundit is currently hacked.

Vonster said...

Actually, Jason, many local liquor stores are Muslim owned. I even know of a Muslim owned gas station that sells a curious amount of ephedrin and even pot pipes.

Pammy said...

I can only offer my support and reiterate what everyone else has already said.

You met the neighborhood whackjob. You handled yourselves with grace.
I'd also add to try not to let it get to you, but I can understand how you'd feel.
Personally, I'd go hunt the guy down and give him a piece of my mind...and maybe a punch in the head....really show 'im what terrorism's all about. heh

But I'd do it knowing that your way was the right way...and mine wasn't. heh

Anonymous said...

take a deep breath. get a police scanner and listen in for scobrien's cordless phone calls.

Vonster said...

And Laura, it wouldn't be such a shocker if it turned out the guy, however ill mannered, was right about the owners. After all, just 'cause you're paranoid doesn't mean they're NOT out to get you.

Eyebrows McGee said...

Vonster,

That may well be true, as I said in my post. I have no way of knowing what the store owner does with his cash. I don't know his politics. I don't even know his religious affiliation or citizenship status.

HOWEVER, it's not unreasonable, when asked to support a petition on the basis that the store owner is a terrorist, to ask for proof. It's a pretty serious accusation, and if it's NOT true, this guy's life is going to be ruined. That isn't fair either.

What's mind-boggling to me was that what set the petitioneer of was my request for proof, not me saying anything like, "I love terrorists!" or "I don't care if he IS a terrorist!" or anything. I just asked for proof of the assertion that he's a terrorist. I'm not going to sign a petition to cripple his business on the grounds he's a terrorist without proof!

If I am presented with proof that he supports terrorists financially or otherwise, I am delighted to jump on any anti-terrorism bandwagon presented. (Well, all the not-stupid bandwagons.) But I'm not going to participate in ruining someone's life without proof. I imagine it's hard enough to be of Middle Eastern extraction in the U.S. these days anyway.

(Also, if it is true, and if the petitioneer has inside information about an ongoing police and/or FBI investigation into the proprietor's terrorist activities, as he claimed to have, then the petitioneer needs to be in court for compromising an ongoing law-enforcement investigation on a homeland security matter.)

Mahkno said...

You are in the paper today (Tuesday).

PeoriaIllinoisan said...

Beat me to it.

Karrie E. Alms said...

Eyebrows:

You were correct to request the proof. All too often, hearsay is the menu of the day. Then when proof is requested, persons whether citizenry or government officials then attempt to vilify or marginalize you as a crackpot for asking the tough questions. Tears are perfectly normal in this time of stress. You showed dignity and class! :)

Peggy said...

Wow,
I feel so with it! I knew of your story before the Journal Star. Gee the television news and now the paper. You're famous. What is your thought on filing a report with the police?

Anonymous said...

Hey I bet the FBI is on this site now.

Eyebrows McGee said...

Well, welcome FBI. :)

As for filing a police report, we probably will do so just to have it on record in case any further harassment follows. We don't want to touch off a fued, or antagonize him, or cause him problems, but we also want to ensure that if he does continue to harass us, we are able to protect ourselves.

james3v1 said...

Probably no-one will see this since the post is really old, but I went by the ethnic grocery in question and the aforementioned ethnic grocer is going out of business.

I talked to him about it for a while (he's a nice guy--I've bought stuff there before) and the best he could say was "I guess the neighbors don't want me here." I told him I was sorry that the jerk with the petition was accusing him of stuff and he said thanks.

It's too bad he's shutting down. I hope he finds someplace better to do business.

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