Airport prayer sparks litany of -isms

Jennie McNulty columnBY JENNIE MCNULTY

I was in an airport recently around 2am after a long day of delay-filled, cross country travel.

I was in the baggage claim area looking for an outlet so I could plug in my phone and wait for my ride. The airport was fairly deserted. I finally found one over in a corner area, plugged in and took a seat on the floor.

A man, who appeared to be Caucasian with dark hair and a dark beard wearing an airport employee’s jacket, came over to this secluded area of the airport shortly after I sat down and began a Muslim prayer ritual. I believe it is called “Salat.” He stood and prayed with his hands by his ears, then knelt, then bowed and repeated the process several times.

I sat there on the floor of that airport, watching him, flabbergasted. Here? Really? Here in an airport? “Does the date 9/11 mean anything to you, Buddy? You couldn’t find someplace else for that?”

Then and even more shocking thought hit me, “Holy Sh*t, I’m a racist!” Or, whatever “-ist” that would be.

I tried to rationalize my bigotry with a Republican-esque, “It’s not really the ‘Muslim” thing, it’s just that he should be working, not doing that while he’s clocked in.”

True, you shouldn’t do personal things on company time but, honestly, if he were checking his Facebook instead, would I have minded? Or even noticed? Some of you might even be reading this at work and I surely don’t have a problem with that. And, if I’m honest with myself, would it have bothered me if an airport employee were kneeling and praying in a Christian fashion? Well, I suppose, if it were the pilot right before take-off. (“We will begin boarding group one as soon as the Captain finishes. Don’t worry, he’s just a little nervous. He does this every time he gets out of rehab.”)

I don’t mind when baseball players make the sign of the cross before they approach the plate. Or when kick returners do it while awaiting the kickoff. Although, I did have an issue a few years ago with then 49er coach, Mike Singletary’s wearing a giant cross on the sideline. But it was as big as his head and distracting.

Loving your God and your religion is fine, but it felt evangelical and not appropriate on the sideline. Sundays are for football. (Insert satiric wink here.)

But, if I’m honest, what set me off on the floor of baggage claim was a misguided reaction that someone was bold enough to do “terrorist things” at an airport of all places. When did I become that ignorant? Have I been watching Fox News in my sleep? This dude was just doing his thing. Some people smoke on their break time, some check email, some plot the overthrow of the U.S. government — wait, shut up! He was just praying for God’s sake, or Allah’s, or whoever.

Human behavior is a funny thing. Sometimes our -isms are so deep we don’t even recognize them. Or we have gotten really good at rationalizing them. We don’t need to be wearing a sheet or a swastika to express hatred toward one another. Outside of our cushy American borders, unrest based partially on these very things is destroying lives and countries all over the world. Just about any way of thinking can get validated today on some social media platform, but maybe we should look a little deeper at where those thoughts are really coming from and what is it that we honestly feel.

We need more love and support in this world. Let’s save our hatred for where it really belongs, the Dallas Cowboys and the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Jennie McNulty was named one of Curve magazine’s Top 10 lesbian comedians. She can be heard weekly as co-host of LA Talk Radio‘s “Cathy Is In: The Cathy DeBuono Show.”

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