- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2001

John Casteen, president of the University of Virginia, is a quivering mass of insipidness who apparently can't think outside academia's itty-bitty box.
It seems Casteen has returned to business as usual, policing the touchy comments of others, in particular those made by football coach Al Groh.
Responding to player concerns about flying by chartered jet to Clemson, S.C., Groh told reporters, "I'm not saying this to make light of it by any means, but I'm not planning on having Arabs in the traveling party. So therefore, I think probably that the threat of our being hijacked is pretty remote."
This sentiment, in one variation or another, is being expressed by travelers around the nation following the horror of Sept. 11, 2001. If you don't think so, just ask the airline executives laying off thousands of employees while pleading for a hefty bailout from lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
The airline industry is where it is, with no easy remedy, because many Americans are afraid to be in the air after four commercial jets were deployed as bombs 10 days ago by nut cases from the Middle East.
This does not mean that anyone who looks Middle Eastern is a potential terrorist. This is not the point. This is hardly the point.
You might as well note that most of the planes in the air on the morning of Sept. 11 landed safely after being ordered out of the skies.
We don't spend a lot of time worrying about the vast majority of things that go right or about the vast majority of people who are good. Instead, we worry about the small fraction of things that can go horribly wrong.
Groh expressed a notion that all Americans are feeling at the moment, namely an unease about being in the air with Middle Eastern types.
Is that fair to Arab Americans, 99 percent of whom are peace-
loving, law-abiding citizens? No, that isn't fair to them. But that is the way it is, and perfectly understandable, given the awful images seared in our minds.
I've talked to several Arab Americans since the attack, and not surprisingly, they are not too comfortable with their brethren either.
Posed a hypothetical scenario, an Afghan American with whom I'm buddies said he would not board a jet if he noticed four or five Middle-Eastern types on the same flight as him. He said he would walk away from the gate. Is he being insensitive? I don't think so. I think he is trying to come to terms with the craziness as best as he can.
I would like to see Casteen board a jet with a couple of my Arab-American pals. I would like to see if there is some muscle to his views. He is too tactful to say he might be unnerved by their presence aboard an aircraft. Yet he just might be inclined to hightail it out of there. To which I say: What is the darn difference?
"Categorical or ethnic hostility toward others is contrary to the university's core values as it is to Coach Groh's," Casteen said. "It is contrary also to President Bush's appeals during the last week for reason and mutual respect among us."
Let's back up a moment. Groh was not being hostile to anyone. He merely noted the group of people who perpetrated the evil, who have a history of such acts. He did not implore anyone to run out and vandalize the local mosque. That action, which already has occurred in my neighborhood, is indefensible. The vigilantes among us are cowards in their own way.
One other thing regarding Casteen: I don't think President Bush's call to be respectful around Arab Americans apply to Groh's comments. President Bush was responding to news reports of hate crimes being committed against innocent Arab Americans. No, you don't accost or berate or harm a person just because he or she looks Middle Eastern, as has happened in isolated cases across the country.
That does not mean you are not allowed to be uncomfortable if you are about to board a jet with four or five guys who appear to be from the Middle East. That does not mean you are not allowed to voice your discomfort. Are you kidding? In a way, isn't that the sort of thinking that helped the hijackers?
You bet it was. Airlines have been sued in recent years after detaining Middle Eastern passengers. The result: diversity training for employees and looser security at airports.
Well, no more. The Justice Department is rounding up a number of folks now, asking all kinds of questions, and you are permitted one guess on the ethnic group being targeted.
Unfortunately, Groh is not allowed to guess. Instead, because of the fuzzy thoughts of a university president, he issued an apology.
It was, in effect, an apology for what America is saying, thinking and feeling at the moment, and that includes the Arab Americans who are as outraged and hurt and frightened as everyone else.
It evidently is too much to expect a modicum of common sense from the halls of academia, even during a time of crisis.
Then again, all too many of those fools still discuss the wonderful philosophy of Karl Marx, who was only one of the great morons of the 19th century.

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