Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Enisled with Their Ignorance

Somewhere in our imaginations, according to a wonderful old children's book, there is an Isle of Conclusions, which "can only be reached by jumping."

Lately that island has become crowded with ignorant Americans, eager to blame certain foreigners for their own country's decline.  Bestirred by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, Glen Back, Fox Faux News, et al, they have insinuated themselves into virtually every facet of our lives, espcially in but not limited to the United States House of Representatives.

A fortnight ago, for example, in Minneapolis-St. Paul, some jumpers-to-conclusions who work for TCF bank sent letters to Iranian students at the University of Minnesota notifying them that their accounts at the bank were being closed arbitrarily. University officials are concerned in part because TCF has had a special agreement with the university. It gives the bank the exclusive right to offer checking accounts accessible with the university's photo ID card. The university makes a million dollars a year in royalties from the deal.

"To have just an answer, why such a thing is happening," said one of the affected students, in law school. "Not just that they are exercising their right, but why they are exercising their right."

TCF spokesman Jason Korstange talked circles around the answers. He said  TCF will review each student's account. and they could close the accounts sooner if they wished. In any event, the bank said, they would need to end any automatic transactions tied to the account.

The doubletalk prompted dozens of senior faculty and staff at the University to send the following letter to Jay Kosmick, TCF Vice President and Region Manager:

Our intention is not to generate ill will, but rather to urge better practices that befit an institution that works with and benefits from a diverse university community.

 First, we must express our deep disappointment in TCF-Minneapolis Bank’s unilateral closing of the bank accounts of at least 22 UMN Iranian students citing possible violations of U.S. trade sanctions. As the students have not engaged in any illegal banking transactions, this appeared to be a case of discrimination based on national origin and unfounded “preemptive” stereotypes. As university faculty who research social practices and ideas, we recognized that TCF’s actions, whether intentional or not, fit precisely within the definition of xenophobia.  In other words, allowing a person’s social and group category as the determining factor in assessing an individual without regard to his or her actual actions is textbook prejudice.

 Second, we are perhaps even more dismayed by how TCF has handled the process and the aftermath of its actions - the holiday timing of the letters, the lack of empathy and compassion, the misplaced justifications, the dearth of case-by-case review, to name a few. Beyond being “tone-deaf,” we are struck by how distant and anti-social its response has been. . . .it takes little imagination to understand that the imposed closing of an important facet of one’s life can generate feelings of immense anxiety, betrayal, anger, injustice, dislocation, insult, and injury. 

 In this light, we – part of a growing group of faculty and staff members at the University of Minnesota – will switch our direct deposit from TCF Bank into a different institution and/or will close our accounts. We no longer feel comfortable having TCF be the responsible institution for our deposits. . . . . 

We also believe that institutions can change; and that all individuals who work within institutions do not necessary agree with a particular course of action. We hope that you will share this letter with other decision-makers at TCF and attempt to reform some of the culture that led to these unfortunate acts.

(Signed by 14 senior faculty including department heads)

Deeply influenced by the American media's blind acceptance of anti-Iran "reports" that are unsourced, or leaked by friends of Israel's hawk government, somebody or bodies in that Minnesota bank jumped to the isle of conclusions and took inappropriate, perhaps even illegal actions.

The pity of it is that all over America, you merely have to cross the street to find similar attitudes and willingness to accuse on the basis of nationality, skin color or religious beliefs.

It has become The American Way and it only drags the country further down.

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