Does Political Correctness Lure us Into Complacency?

Updated: April 2, 2015
People stand on a platform waiting to get on the subway, on 33rd steet, New York. Nov 11, 2008. Photo by Kobi Gideon / FLASH90.   *** Local Caption *** ðéå éåø÷ àøöåú äáøéú àîøé÷ä îðäèï øçåá ðåó òéøåðé øëáú úçúéú ñàáååé øöéó

People stand on a platform waiting to get on the subway, on 33rd steet, New York. Nov 11, 2008. Photo by Kobi Gideon / FLASH90.

I received a call from James “Smokey” West today and felt alarmed as a country; we are not doing our best to stay secure. Smokey and I had a conversation about how he feels our country is being lured to sleep and into complacency due in part to being overly “Politically Correct”.   I moved into a large historical house in a downtown urban neighborhood a few years ago hoping to eventually do it justice by furnishing it with period pieces and fixing what little was left to give attention to; the previous owner had left it in a most respectful condition. I merely had to maintain the rhythm of his efforts. The house, once again, is in a downtown area and from time to time a suspicious figure might walk down my street giving occasion for pause, but for the most part it’s much more peaceful than some would think.

Just across from me there’s a seasoned building; it’s had a, “For Sale” sign for about three years. Sometimes vagrants break in for the night, set up shop, and make the best of their lives. Before long the owners show up, chase them off, call the police, and ask everybody the same questions they did the time previous— it’s an interesting cycle. I’m sure I’m observed with the same curiosity by others in higher socioeconomic strata. I’m certain I look suspicious to some. Nevertheless while I’ve been here I’ve thought of penning a short story or two about some behavior that has been subtle, but very telling. People are terribly amazing. I like to take them in as much as possible without surrendering my obvious fascination.

There are few that I share this with, because quite frankly, many times my observations are fanatical and boarder on paranoid. I watch everything. I count steps, listen for tone and volume changes in nearby voices, look into reflective surfaces, measurer the distance from and count exits… it’s absolutely ridiculous and have little desire to explain why or how I ended up like this. When my children were younger they had to be within reach. What I mean by that is that if I could not simply extend my arm and feel their arms— they were too far away.

One afternoon the lot of us (the kids, wife, and I) were shopping and I confronted a man who had been coincidently in the same areas as we were a few too many times. He had been communicating with a woman standing at the store’s entrance. To make a long story short: I did what any father would have done and made it very clear to the gent that he was going to have a bad afternoon. I am not a large person. There is nothing too uncommon about my athleticism but I had made a decision based on my observation and meaningful data. I embarrassed my wife and children, but between me and the reading audience I’m a bit indifferent to that; I followed what seemed to be the best course of action.

I shared this with Mr. James “Smokey” West some time ago and he assured me that I was correct to be suspicious but politely didn’t reflect at length about my antics, “I wasn’t there so I can’t say that I would or would not have done the same. But I would have been suspicious if what you’re describing is accurate. Hell I might have done worse. (Laughing) I don’t know… I might have told him, “Buddy if I was going to “F” someone up you’d be a great candidate.”” I’m sure he said that to make me feel better. That’s what I thought at the time, but I might have been wrong.

Today I had a conversation which involved the same theme: Being lured into complacency. Smokey West is one of the few who encourages this dialogue non-judgmentally. It was his turn to share however. I’m beginning to think that when my phone rings, and I see his name that I should just pick up pen and pad as well.

“Hey!” He does not usually start off with, “Hey!” But when he does it means listen-close, which I do. He is a genuine friend and gentleman always asking what I’m, “into” at the time. We usually exchange a few odds and ends and leave some leftovers for the next time, but today was different. There was a pause to his speech cadence. Whatever he was about to share I knew silence to be the only encouragement.

(Jim): “I saw this guy today…” I didn’t respond. And then he set the stage. It’s his way of rewinding just in case he’s moved too fast.

“Let me re-set, I was traveling on the Path Train today from the World Trade Center to NJ, when a man seemed to have stepped out of nowhere and through the end doors of the train, the doors between the two cars, as the train was moving. It seemed like he came from nowhere.


He went on to explain how he’d made an observation on a train traveling from New York to New Jersey. He stated that he had spotted a very suspicious looking guy of whom he was not able to dismiss or give justification as to his behavior. He went on to describe a man of ethnic physical characteristics, looking like a suicide bomber. Jim was extremely alarmed. Smokey stated he felt the guy was an immediate threat as he appeared to be homeless, but looking like one of Bin Laden’s sidekicks, with dark unruly hair and a large black beard.   He was wearing an oversized and out of season coat, about 3 sizes too big. It looked like he was carrying packages under his coat; you know the kind you see in movies and news when a bomber has the explosives strapped around his body. The guy just didn’t fit!

Smokey has been trained by the state department and the agency with respect to V.I.P. protection details, hostage rescue and counter insurgency (identifying the threat)! That means people who are simply out of place, uncomfortable is un-natural.

It was very obvious. If you’ve read my last article, which had Mr. West at the center of yet another phone call then you are aware that I have a friendship with him. I have a bit in the bank, but I’m more than confident that I ran up the credit card of tolerance on this one. The following is not recommended:

“Jim how long were you able to observe him?”

“3 minutes.”

“…and if you had to give a positive identification could you do it?”

“John, if I saw him for 5 seconds I could give a positive ID.”

“What was he doing— again?”

“It’s not what he was doing; it was his line and posture. It was his appearance. It’s an equation, which includes a variety of behaviors and tendencies.”

“He looked like a jihadist?” This was tongue and cheek; risky as well. I am a public school teacher and political correctness is a must at all times— period. He knew this.

“I don’t know what the “F” that means John, but I’m not going to get pulled into a discussion of terms, political correctness, and or labels; he could have been from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Look, it wasn’t just that. He looked to be carrying something. He was a mess. He stunk to high heaven. He looked pretty rough and worn; homeless. He was filthy and un-kept. The only thing that gives me the confidence of saying he was from the Middle East is the accent he was using. The man walked to the middle of the train and started speaking with what appeared to be an Arab accent. He stopped and spoke to everyone on the train. He said “everyone, listen to me” “I need help, please give me money, I am hungry” ………

Smokey went on to explain how most homeless people are similar and do not stand out and speak to everyone in the manner he had. Smokey felt like taking him down or kicking him off the train, but quickly access the fact, if his hand was on a detonator, he would blow up anyway. James “Smokey” West felt helpless. This man had already placed himself in a position where you would be damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Here is the deal, Jim felt like we are being lured to sleep, into a complacent state. When we watch adds about “see something, say something” all you see is a nap sac in a train station. You don’t see people as we are being trained into so much political correctness, we may be arrested for associating ad protected or not, group with any criminal act. Look, it is a felony pan handle for money across state lines. In NY, even homeless people are smart enough not to break that law.

Smokey further explained, to his concern, how terrorists are economically very intelligent; wanting to get the most, bang for their buck. Then he further mentioned a very scary fact about the Trade Center is just finishing up with its final finish work for construction and how there seems to be almost no real security below and from the trains. Smokey then wondered about all the soldiers returning from the battlefield with PTSD. How on earth would one of them respond to this situation? Jim has seen many homeless people and believes this man did not fit the bill. James “Smokey” West believes NYC is the original melting pot and is the most diverse city in the world. I know Smokey welcomes all. With “Smokey” a threat is a threat” and this guy was a real eye opener. What would you do if you looked up one day and was confronted by a character looking like a suicide bomber? Think about it, if his hand in his pocket is holding down a detonator, it is already too late. Smokey thinks this is an area of personal defense applied in this way he described is not properly addressed for Joe civilian to deal with. We train to be aware of our surrounding, walk with friends, avoid dark and suspicious places and more, but how do you stop this one?

I knew what he was getting at and it’s very hard not to ask the obvious and point out the plain. I could have said, Jim there are lots of individuals who might have a Middle Eastern appearance… and then,

“Hey, John how many homeless Arabs have you seen?”

“Not many.” I said.

“I’ll tell you how many— none. That’s how many. You’re not going to see many at all. Listen, let me ask you a question. When I use the term Neo- Nazi what’s the first thing you think of; what do you see? “


“Yeah that’s what I thought. See you’re afraid to say. I’m not saying you should share that, but it says something about how we communicate today. Why can’t we have this discussion without caution? Interesting— right? (Laughing)”

It wasn’t dense enough. There was an explanation missing, and I was afraid to ask. Again I waited, and in that instant,

“It’s called conditioning the battlefield my friend, and the fact that we can’t use certain terms without the fear of offending is part of it.” That was the working definition I needed.

He continued, and by the way the explanation is frightening.

Look… listen up… when a guy’s conditioning the battlefield there’s a lot going on. He’s not just acclimating himself to the area and routine, but he’s conditioning us to him. We’re getting used to his presence. That train goes right under the new Trade Center. He’s grooming; they’re grooming, conditioning… They’ll time every trip give things to carry so people grow indifferent. They’ll use our weaknesses against us…Pump some kid full of drugs, send him on a fool’s errand, ask him if he feels good, and then assure him, “That’s what heaven feels like.” I know of a few guys that might have stopped him; scary s—t.”

This would be enough for most people to turn away.  However this is not just the voice of a veteran. It is not the voice of a soldier. It’s the voice of our country, which has been at war for some time now. I invite you to try and turn away, but realize this. There is an operational vocabulary for what Mr. West observed, and he used it. Consider his past and even his present line of work. He currently makes a living by keeping people alive; implementing, maintaining, and enforcing safety code. It is his job to be severely critical and observant.

As servicemen we are sworn to protect our country against foreign and domestic enemies—

That’s really all that needs to be said. The most frightening thing is that I will not give a comforting conclusion to this article it will simply end. I hope this sits in your head. I hope you, the reader, observe. But even more I hope you question your surroundings. I hope you question the use of terms. Is there ever a time and place to simply use words and or phrases which could save lives? That is not a rhetorical question. Answer it for yourself and when you do consider it the end of this article.


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