If Albert Einstein were travelling across the US today he may have to take a few precautions, like not trying to solve his famous General Theory of Relativity or other complex matters while on board an aircraft, for his genius could so easily be mistaken for a terror plot to bring down the plane if he were to so much as write a few lines of a mathematical equation, as an Ivy League college professor, an Italian with dark hair and a healthy Mediterranean complexion, experienced recently.
The economist was simply scribbling equations while preparing for a speech in Canada when a lady psyched herself up into a state of panic, although it transpired she was the one to be deplaned on health grounds and not the professor who was, at the most, guilty of working on mathematics at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Paranoia about being in an aircraft that could be brought down by terrorists has been taken to its heights ever since 9/11. Travellers in the US are frequently pulled out randomly for the great American “treat” now known as the “full body search”. If such choices at random selection seem based on racial profiling, so seems to be the attitude of the Transport Security Administration.
A number of people have suffered from profiling, especially Sikhs. Why, even people speaking rapidly in their native tongues, from India or elsewhere, have seen panic break out over aircraft security. The professor is worried about xenophobic attitudes in the land of freedom and opportunity. Maybe he can run an Internet tutorial on precautions necessary when taking a flight in the US.