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Cooksey Should Simmer Down
September 21, 2001
by Rodney Jay C. Salinas

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Every person has their own unique way of grieving. Some people cry hysterically. Others keep their emotions pent up inside them. But a few individuals lose all of their judgment skills and mental faculties altogether. Enter John Cooksey.

During a recent radio interview with stations in Louisiana, Congressman John Cooksey, a self-professed conservative Republican from Monroe, Louisiana, issued some of the most hateful and bigoted comments to date in the wake of the attacks in New York and Washington.

The interviewer, Jeff Palermo, asked Cooksey if Americans should expect to lose some of their civil liberties in the aftermath of the terrorist assaults. In response to Palermo's questions, Cooksey uttered a barrage of disgraceful comments about Arab Americans and other individuals who "look like them."

"If I see someone (who) comes in that's got a diaper on his head and a fan belt wrapped around the diaper on his head, that guy needs to be pulled over," Cooksey said.

In his remarks, Cooksey essentially advocated seeking out suspects based solely on their race. He calls it justice. Others call it racial profiling.

"When you've got a group of people who are not American citizens, who are of Arab descent and they were involved in killing 5,000 Americans, I think we can and should scrutinize people that fit that profile until this war on terrorism is over," Cooksey added.

Little did Cooksey know that Attorney General John Ashcroft, on that very same day of the interview, declared that the United States will not engage in racial profiling in regards to the terrorist attacks. "The investigation will be conducted by the standards of the U.S. Constitution," Ashcroft stated.

Perhaps the Congressman just got caught up in the heat of the moment. After all, this is a national tragedy and times like these call for drastic measures, right? Not necessarily. It looks like Cooksey needs a civics lesson in the basics of the United States Constitution.

Not everyone who "looks" Arab is involved with the terrorist attacks. In fact, millions of Americans of Arab heritage are just that - AMERICANS. And because they are Americans, they are entitled to the same rights and privileges as everyone else. At least, that's what they taught me in civics class.

If we followed Cooksey's logic, then every young, white male would have been locked up by now. Because after Timothy McVeigh and his infamous bombing in Oklahoma City, Cooksey's deranged logic would have you believe that all young white males are plotting to bomb federal buildings. Was that the case? Of course not. After the bombing on that federal facility occurred in 1995, did Americans want to scrutinize and summarily harass every male who fit McVeigh's profile? Absolutely not.

When Palermo brought up this point to Cooksey during their interview, Cooksey said, "If all terrorists looked like McVeigh, all young white American males would be interrogated. But the terrorists (last week) had a different look, a different face and people fitting that profile should be interrogated."

Clearly, the Oklahoma City bombing pails in comparison to the tragedies of recent memory. But because Arab Americans are easier to point out, or as Cooksey says, "because they wear diapers on their heads," they should be singled out. Surely, Cooksey, a physician by training, could not be advocating such a discriminatory practice. But indeed he is.

Now is the time to bring together Americans of all races, religions and backgrounds. Cooksey's statements only evoke resentment and promote divisiveness. Only one week after the tragedies of September 11, there have already been hundreds of incidents of biased crimes against Arab Americans and Muslim Americans. Certainly, Cooksey may only be adding to the fuel of hatred burning inside so many Americans.

Moreover, by targeting only those individuals who fit the "profile," investigators might miss other terrorists and accomplices who don't "look Arab." Even if most of the terrorists involved turn out to be of Arab heritage, a plot of this magnitude had to have involved many, many more individuals. And I bet at least a small number of them are not Arab-looking. So the goal of investigators should be to find any and all who were involved in this crime against humanity no matter what they look like.

Perhaps the most outrageous aspect of this whole incident is that Cooksey does not regret any of his comments, according to The Advocate, a newspaper based in Baton Rouge, La. What's worse, is that Cooksey claims he has received no complaints from constituents.

"Only the press. The press is trying to make something of it," he said.

Here's another lesson in responsible governing, Mr. Congressman. Just because your constituents don't complain, doesn't mean that you are right. In fact, in this case, you're dead wrong. And I only hope that the good people of your district are ashamed of you and your remarks. As a fellow American, I know I am.

Rodney Jay C. Salinas is President of the Rainmaker Political Group LLC, publishers of PoliticalCircus.com, an online source for political news and information for the Asian Pacific American community.

 
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