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What's Going on at 538?

And If It Had Been A Bomb?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

“We have to stay vigilant against the lone wolf.” Who did this advice come from? That would be the President of the United States, Barrack Obama. So, exactly why is President Obama now saying “Cool clock, Ahmed, Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.”


What does anyone think would happen if I came for a tour of the White House or was trying to get through airport security and I brought along with me a clock that was stuffed inside of a brief case? The precise response would have been a question: "Where is the rest of the bomb?" Regardless of whether I was man, woman, tall, short, Arab, Hispanic, Jewish, whatever, that would be the appropriate response.

Several years ago and months after 9-11, I was changing airplanes at Heathrow in London and found myself behind an elderly gentleman who had recently purchased a set of antique Indian knifes in London. They were extremely expensive and the gentleman would neither check them through with the regular baggage nor was he willing to send them via any type of mail service to Mumbai, his destination. He insisted on bringing the knives along with him into the passenger section of the airplane. I watched and waited as security worked its way through supervisor to super supervisor to Bobby (British police officer). After all reasoning failed, the Bobby finally looked at the elderly gentleman and asked him what village he lived in near Mumbai. Upon hearing his response, the Bobby asked him if he was the village idiot.

When my children were little and something went woefully wrong, I always posed the same question: "Don't tell me what you were thinking, tell me if you were thinking." That is the question I would pose to the parents of Ahmed Mohamed or any other parent who was thinking of allowing their child to bring something to school that looked like a bomb. I would also pose the question to young Mr. Mohamed. His parents certainly should have known and at fourteen, in my opinion, young Mr. Mohamed should have known that the President of the United States has warned all Americans to be vigilant about terrorism and potential terrorists. Anyone should have known on the front end that his briefcase clock would certainly look like a bomb to the uninitiated. There is not a single member of the military who has been in Iraq or Afghanistan who has not seen or heard about a bomb carrier under the age of fourteen. What was predictable happened.


As to the possibility of profiling, I suggest: "Deal with it". It may not be fair, it may not be right, but so long as there are lone wolf terrorist events in the United States by individuals with Middle Eastern names and/or appearance, there will be the concerns. We can sugar coat that a thousand different ways; we can wish it was not so, but it is what it is. And bringing a homemade device that looks like a bomb is going to scare a school teacher, a police officer or a Nun to death regardless of the heritage of the person holding the homemade device. We want our school teachers to be assertive in insuring to the best of their ability that our schools are safe. I suggest that almost everyone would rather arrest fifty Mohameds or Crystals or Mordicais than miss a single student who built not only a digital clock, but an accompanying bomb.

America and Americans have been told repeatedly to stay vigilant with respect to terrorism. America has been told to stay vigilant with respect to homegrown terrorism. Why? Because there have been acts of terrorism in virtually every sector of our culture. In our schools, students have murdered other students and teachers. Several students have brought guns to school and killed other students. Teachers cannot look the other way because the student is a majority or a minority and that is and should be the law of the land.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, our soldiers have seen what are referred to as IEDs. IED stands for Improvised Explosive Device. How in the world is an English teacher supposed to know that a clock in a brief case is not an IED? This student does not deserve an apology; the English teach deserves a medal for taking no chances with the safety of her students.


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