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Land of the Scared

I had to get something off my chest. I’ve been seething about this for awhile, but a story this week brought it to a head. You probable saw it: it was the talk of social media last week. So let’s start with that, from True’s 20 September 2015 issue:

“Hoax Bomb” Blows Up

Ahmed Mohamed said it was a clock he had invented. But his engineering teacher said he shouldn’t show it to other teachers, his English teacher said it looked like a bomb, and the police said he was arrested and led out of the school in handcuffs for bringing a “hoax bomb” to school — even though Mohamed, 14, never claimed it was a bomb. “He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation,” said a spokesman for the Irving, Tex., police. A cop, Mohamed says, took one look at him and said, “Yup. That’s who I thought it was.” Mohamed was suspended from school, and prosecutors declined to file any charges. The story exploded on social media, where President Obama, Mark Zuckerberg and others came down firmly on Mohamed’s side. (AC/Dallas Morning News) …Some conservatives suggest the Mohameds deliberately baited the authorities. If so, they sure took the bait.

There Has Been Some Great Stuff online about the story. The kid said he “invented” (more repackaged) a digital clock to show his teacher. I like Alexander’s take on it: whether the kid is a totally innocent tinkerer or trolling the cops to make a point about race and/or religion in this country (after all, because I’m white, I’ve never been arrested for my Timex wristbomb — even in airports!), the point is clearly made while his school and the local authorities are left looking like total fools.

the clock

Police photo of the b-b-b-b-bomb!

The absolute funniest one I’ve seen is this picture of London’s Big Ben, with the caption “BREAKING NEWS: The British appear to have developed some sort of giant bomb, possibly attached to a rocket.” Naturally I couldn’t find it now, so I went ahead and recreated it:

Big Ben

The school’s response was to tell parents that “police responded to a suspicious-looking item on campus” …without mentioning that the police did that because the school called them. And just how worried was the school about this “bomb”? Consider that they didn’t evacuate the school. The police transported the “bomb” with the kid when they took him in for booking. NO ONE thought it was “really” a bomb, so why the hysteria? Oh yeah: because the kid’s name is Mohamed and he’s brown.

The principal told parents that this event “is a good time to remind your child how important it is to immediately report any suspicious items and/or suspicious behavior” to school officials. Sure, that’s true. But then it’s the adults’ responsibility to know the difference between a threat and a student trying to impress his teacher with his ingenuity in the bumbling sort of way 14-year-olds do that.

Yep, the key takeaway isn’t that he’s Muslim or a “terrorist,” it’s that he’s an absolutely normal 14-year-old kid, part of the “melting pot” that defines America. OK, a smarter-than-average 14-year-old kid, but that’s something for schools to celebrate, not stomp down until the kid cowers in fear like the adults at the school — and, apparently, at the Irving Police Department. Ahmed showed more maturity and, indeed, dignity than all of them combined. In his arrest photo, this dangerous monster is wearing a NASA t-shirt. Yep: just your basic geek.

Ahmed, under arrest

I remember when Americans were tough. They looked up to strength: Superman trumpeted “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” What happened? Now we tremble at the thought of a 14-year-old with (gasp!) a clock? We used to embrace science and technology …until a few politically connected whiners finally realized it reveals inconvenient truths, like evolution and the human-caused destruction of the planet. “Stop teaching kids the truth! Don’t trample my myth! It deserves equal time!” No. No it doesn’t.

Superman school poster

A school poster featuring Superman, c1950. Superman is saying: “…And remember, boys and girls, your school — like our country — is made up of Americans of many different races, religions and national origins. So… …if YOU hear anybody talk against a schoolmate or anyone else because of his religion, race or national origin — don’t wait: tell him THAT KIND OF TALK IS UN-AMERICAN. HELP KEEP YOUR SCHOOL ALL AMERICAN! (Click to see larger)

It’s time to stop being afraid. It’s time to start teaching kids how to think, rather than what to think. Because the last generation of kids didn’t grow up to be strong, thoughtful citizens: they’re afraid of little boys with clocks, and hide behind zero tolerance to lash out at what they don’t have capacity to understand. Those aren’t American values, that’s plain cowardice. It’s time for America to grow up.

November 2015 Update

An attorney for the Mohamed family announced a demand for an apology from the mayor and police chief of Irving, Texas — plus $15 million — or suffer from a lawsuit filed against the city.

I roll my eyes.

Yes, it’s still ridiculous to for Americans to grossly overreact and cower in fear. But 15 mil? Outrageous. The Mohameds had the high ground for a little while, but running off (the family moved to Qatar) and leaving a lawyer behind to demand an outrageous profit is a bit much.

Attorney Kelly Hollingsworth says that Ahmed’s civil rights were violated, he suffered “severe psychological trauma,” and his “reputation in the global community is permanently scarred.” What, by meeting a bunch of celebrities patting him on the back, including the president of the United States? Or was it from getting scholarship offers and doing public appearances?

Pathetic.

“Ahmed clearly was singled out because of his race, national origin and religion,” the attorney says. Yep, and that was pathetic too. But I don’t see any financial damage — just a financial windfall. That’s not even close to being worthy of a settlement, or a lawsuit. That’s Stella Awards material.

The attorney has given the city 60 days to cough up, or the lawsuit will be filed. (Source)

Yet none of this changes the point of this page: it’s still time for Americans to stop being afraid. Again, “Some conservatives suggest the Mohameds deliberately baited the authorities. If so, they sure took the bait.

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52 Responses to Land of the Scared

  1. Grant, Spokane, WA September 21, 2015 at 6:46 pm #

    “Because the kid’s name is Mohammed and he’s Brown.”

    No, just because the kid’s name is Mohammed. See the man behind him, in the police uniform? This isn’t about white v. brown. It’s about anti-Muslim sentiments. We’re feeding into ISIS — giving them exactly what they want. If we fear and despise all Muslims, then the Muslims in this country will hate the rest of us, and join up with ISIS. They don’t have to recruit: we do it for them.

    I indeed noticed the cop. He’s black: we kinda tolerate THAT …somewhat. But if you don’t think middle-eastern descent is a factor in how people are treated in this country, you’re fooling yourself. -rc

  2. Jim, Fairview Heights Illinois September 21, 2015 at 7:02 pm #

    I happen to be a conservative, but I also happen to have studied real science, not political science. I also have a bit of an electronics background, having worked in communications and computers for almost 40 years. When I first saw the picture I could tell it was just a clock. Putting the clock face on the outside of a pencil case made to look like an attache case may not have been smart, but then he is only 14.

    School administrators need to relearn what our generation took almost for granted, common sense. We at least expected our school administrators to have it, and most of our teachers did too.

    Yes we have to be vigilant, and yes we have to practice situational awareness, but if they had been aware they would have notice that the device had no explosives. Perhaps they got their knowledge of electronics and explosives from B movies.

  3. Jeffrey from Las Vegas September 21, 2015 at 7:09 pm #

    From your articles on zero tolerance, I had a hard time telling the difference between this case and kids getting suspended for making a finger gun. Are we sure this is anti-Islam hysteria or just another case of crackpot school administrators? Obvious, both need to go, but I’m loath to bring in charges of bigotry unless they are merited.

    A fair question. I did notice in social media posts lots of links to white kids actually building clocks at school who weren’t arrested, though I didn’t chase them down and research them. -rc

  4. Lenny, Hialeah September 21, 2015 at 7:49 pm #

    I agree with most of your thought on the matter. Ahmed likes to tinker. I think that is a good thing. But, there is the other matter of Islam. We are afraid of the Muslims because we fear they will continue doing what they have always done, expanding Islam. This country is great for assimilation. We like newcomers to try to copy the American way.

    In defense of school and police officials, I will point out one other thing. Namely that Ahmed is his fathers son. Look into who his father is, and see some of the documented activities he is responsible for, both in his home country, and the local city council, and this will color the picture.

    The only thing worse than being a racist is being accused of being one, when you aren’t. The inverse is also true. If you get stung every time you walk into your backyard, you will be careful when you step out. Human nature means you learn from your mistakes, but you are smarter if you learn from other peoples mistakes.

    To be sure, this kid did not “invent” what he took credit for. In his defense, I will say any teacher or cop was shortsighted too, because he brought in timing mechanism. There was no explosive. But, can a kid bring bullets to school? No, it is not usually allowed. So, essentially, he brought in part of a bomb. Everything but the explosive. And, he declined to answer the police. Lack of cooperation with the authorities will get you a closer look, always. Where we have school shootings, we have weird kids. Ahmed is as strange as they come.

    By that logic, a battery is “part of a bomb” and kids should be expelled from school for having a flashlight. As for what “Muslims have always done,” let’s change the word to “Christian”: they’ve always worked hard to “expand Christianity” — so much so that they marched upon Muslim countries and killed anyone they found who wouldn’t involuntarily convert. It was called The Crusades. Your bottom line, though, is (and I quote directly) “We are afraid.” Yes, we are, and damn it, we need to STOP operating from fear. It’s simply a stupid way to live, and as Grant points out in the first comment, “We’re feeding into ISIS — giving them exactly what they want.” And you defend that?! -rc

  5. Kirk, Fredericksburg TX September 21, 2015 at 8:26 pm #

    Randy, I think you were too hard on Lenny. You are comparing the behavior of Christians from centuries ago (the crusades) to what Muslims are doing right now? Really? How many Christians today are converting non-Christians with guns and swords? No credit for evolving? I think the kid was being provocative and trying for a reaction, probably to get lots of donations to his two fund-raising efforts. One is for a lawsuit against the police, and one is for a scholarship fund. And the NASA shirt? Just a coincidence that he happened to wear it the same day as he brought the cannibalized Radio Shack clock to school? I’ll give the kid credit (and probably his father too) for setting up a good hoax, but it was just another zero tolerance incident that got out of control.

    Sure there’s credit for evolving. But face it, the war is still being fought, with presidential candidates like Ben Carson saying that Muslims shouldn’t be eligible to be the President of the U.S. There may not be swords, but in some influential circles, the discrimination still runs deep, even into clearly unconstitutional grounds. -rc

  6. Pete, Ontario, Canada September 21, 2015 at 9:11 pm #

    Well, I have no idea who scammed who. Was this a scam by the kid to get famous and raise money? Maybe. Still this would, in the USA of today, be a risky way to do that. I am not sure a kid would do that.

    Clearly, this was handled as poorly as possible by all concerned. Randy, having been a cop, should know cop logic. But the cop logic of today is not the logic of yesterday. We have chaps today who are far less ADAM 12, and more StormTrooper. Sorry, Randy, these are not the Law Enforcement Officers you knew, I fear. They need better training, and environment, to up their game.

    Still, all has worked out well for the kid: More than 15 minutes of fame, money, invites to Silicon Valley, invite by the POTUS, and an invite to a Science Fair, by Canada’s Commander Chris Hadfield, formerly of the ISS. And since he toodles in electronics, he fixes stuff for the kids in his school. More clients. And who knows what else may happen.

    Coulda been much worse. And also: Coulda been absolutely nothing, as 3-4 adults looked at it, saw that he just cannibalized some old clock parts, (really inventing nothing new) and said “Cute, clever” and moved on.

    But, it happened the way it did. To the kid’s benefit. Say thank you to the nice Obliviots, Randy. (Some sarcasm….)

  7. Ken, Citrus Heights, CA September 21, 2015 at 9:45 pm #

    My only complaint about “Ahmed’s” clock is that he LITERALLY “didn’t build that”. It’s a Radio Shack “kit” clock, and very poorly assembled.

    Frankly, I’m certain that there’s plenty of mockery to go around. Ahmed’s dad is an Islamic “activist”; by the time dad got to the police station, Ahmed was long out of the cuffs, but dad insisted on getting a photo of kid IN cuffs — for the pure sake of agitation.

    NOBODY wins in this situation — and I think that was dad’s objective. Well trolled, Ahmed!

  8. Daryl, Melbourne AU September 21, 2015 at 9:50 pm #

    Don’t you just love it when both sides are right … and wrong!

  9. John, Palm Springs, CA September 21, 2015 at 10:07 pm #

    A response to Kirk about the crusades. Mike Huckabee, Kim Davis, and much of the GOP is still belittling people who are not like them, wanting to deny them their civil rights, etc. These are people claiming to be Christians, yet persecuting others because their God told them to. We have American preachers going to Africa and stirring up anti-gay sentiment, getting people imprisoned or even killed because of who they are. Some believe that much of the Russian anti-gay hysteria has been created by some of these same Christian preachers. It may not be on the scale of the crusades, but when it is you, or your friends and family, that is being attacked it sure feels like a crusade today, not centuries ago.

  10. David, Australia September 21, 2015 at 10:40 pm #

    You said “But his engineering teacher said he shouldn’t show it to other teachers”. His engineering teacher would have known, if he had the slightest knowledge of electronics, that it was just a clock. And been prepared to vouch for that fact instead of perpetuating the fear.

    All that is needed to convert something like this into a bomb is a couple more components, that will detonate explosive instead of beeping an alarm. But it’s easy enough to tell if this is being done, and instead of zero tolerance, take it in context — is the kid a geek anyway, does he have a history of wanting to blow stuff up? If the answers are yea and no, you’re on pretty safe ground.

    Lenny said “Look into who his father is…” and “Ahmed is as strange as they come.” I looked up some other reports of this incident and did not find any evidence to support either of those claims — Lenny, can you be more specific? Ahmed’s father appears to be a fairly hard working immigrant, and Ahmed himself is likely to tend towards the STEM fields that are we are told are what America needs. Is there a problem with either of those? Or just the fact that they’re Muslim?

    I’d agree that there are some corners of Islam that we don’t want. But Ahmed and his father don’t appear to inhabit those corners.

  11. Diane, Bowling Green, KY September 21, 2015 at 11:36 pm #

    This story has been blowing me away from the first I saw it. No one even tried to claim that the kid had done anything at all remotely like trying to perpetrate a “bomb” hoax. No one at the school or police station took the possibility of it being a bomb in the least bit seriously.

    Even worse though, have been the comments I’ve read, particularly on conservative sites, saying he got what he deserved and that of course, you couldn’t trust a Muslim.

    The pencil box morphed into a full blown briefcase. The electrical cord was a security device to shock anyone trying to tamper with it (since it wasn’t properly grounded). It was a ploy by his father to terrorize the community … or to create a court case.

    ZT has got to be one of the most asinine policies of modern education, although trigger warnings and the right to never feel offended run a close second and third.

  12. Ana-Marie - Oakland, CA September 21, 2015 at 11:40 pm #

    I was looking forward to hearing your reaction to Clockgate, and you didn’t disappoint. I think we will see more of this story in the form of similar overreactions, with schools ensuring they go through all the proper steps to prove a point, or I could see someone staging an event, then rushing to point out the discrepancies in the treatment of the young people involved. Oy. The time and money we could waste.

    Marinating in fear leads to poor choices (like abandoning common sense, doing virtually anything for the sake of “safety”) and it fuels distrust and then hatred of “outsiders” or anyone too different. I’m passionate about removing as much fear and threat from public dialogue as possible. While my nerd niche is removing fear from emergency preparedness and disaster response, it’s everywhere these days. Sadly, this happened during a presidential election cycle, so we are inundated with many more messages of our impending doom.

  13. David in Roanoke September 22, 2015 at 12:16 am #

    Randy, have you seen this Maker’s takedown of Ahmed’s “invention”?

    At first I agreed with you — it’s a sad state of affairs that the police treated this poor, Muslim boy like a terrorist. Then I realized that he brought an electronic timer in a suitcase to school and programmed it to go off in English class (and why wasn’t it in his locker after he showed it to the teacher he claims to have brought it to school to show?). He even admitted in a later interview that it “looked suspicious.”

    The bottom line is that the school isn’t allowed to defend themselves due to privacy laws, so Ahmed and his activist father now have a national platform to spread whatever story they want to, unchallenged. There *are* people who discriminate against Muslims in this country, and it’s conceivable that a Muslim boy who invented an electronic device could be caught up in a case of Islamophobia, but this doesn’t seem to be that.

    Wow, the pencil box that grew to a “full blown briefcase” (as a previous commenter pointed out) is now a “suitcase”? Give it another week and it will be a car bomb parked under his desk! No, I didn’t read the “takedown” of a child’s project by an adult, and presumably engineering-educated, “maker”. The story already makes clear we don’t think he “invented” anything, by putting that in quotes and explaining why. -rc

  14. Mati, Israel September 22, 2015 at 12:29 am #

    Kirk, the basic problem with your comment is actually best put in the tag line. If this was intentionally provocative, the worst reaction is giving him what he wants.

    Also, take into account the difference in the age of the religion. Christianity is older, and did this before the internet was around. That doesn’t make what was done in the name of Christianity any better. Btw, the crusades are only one example of many, and every time Christianity went on a rampage, Jews suffered the worst, which is another parallel to the current Islamic fight against Christians.

  15. Tim, Belgium September 22, 2015 at 12:51 am #

    I completely agree with you here. I do feel the need to comment though as I think you missed one important part in your response to Lenny’s comment:

    From all the news reports I read, I couldn’t find a single one saying that Ahmed declined to answer the police. In fact, police spokesman James McLellan said: “We have no information that he claimed it was a bomb. He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.”

    If telling the truth is “lack of cooperation” I wonder what asserting your Miranda rights (“you have the right to remain silent”) or 5th amendment rights would mean….

  16. George from Chicago, IL September 22, 2015 at 2:46 am #

    Kirk – The Crusades may have been centuries ago but many American “Christians” have the crusader mentality today. And many of my people, atheists, are still being attacked by “Christians.” I’m sure the Oklahoma bombing was done by “Christians” and “Christians” blow up abortion clinics and kill doctors in the name of the “pro-life” movement. Not to mention the fact that there has been a big upsurge in the extreme “conservative” attempts to make the USA a theocracy recently. Should that happen, with their fingers on the nuclear trigger, how long do you think it would take dominionists to destroy islamic populations? They are all the same.

  17. Bob, Washington September 22, 2015 at 7:14 am #

    The best comment I heard on this subject is that Texas is always scared of clocks that run FORWARD in time.

    *Snicker*. -rc

  18. Nancy, New York, NY September 22, 2015 at 8:03 am #

    If our blitzing of Iraq wasn’t a crusade I don’t know what is. We even had a fundamentalist Christian President at the time who pushed it until it finally (and stupidly) happened. It also had its own “banner” or slogan: “Shock and Awe.” Thousands of innocent civilians died (and are still dying), while we destroyed their infrastructure and political system without providing any viable solutions to the “problem”. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld should be in the Hague being tried for “Crimes Against Humanity”!

    I’ve lived in Turkey and Syria and spent time in Jordan, and the post-colonial messes that keep exploding in that region go back to 1920 — and London, Paris and (yes) Washington. There are so many cultures and religious sects in that region one loses count (Sunni, Shi’a, Aloui, Druse, Jewish, Christian, Bedouin, and many more, going back thousands of years).

    But pumping oil provides the heartbeat of the region and the blood that is shed is because Westerners cannot let the locals have ownership of the fossil fuels on their own lands. So ruler lines define the borders of countries that didn’t exist within these knife-cut lines until the ’20s. Divide populations and conquer: as long as there’s warfare of some kind, we can grab the oil while the locals are distracted by the messes we’ve deliberately made.

    And we say Moslems are the terrorists??!?

  19. Paul in Houston September 22, 2015 at 8:17 am #

    George W. Bush did us no favors, in the aftermath of 9/11, when he shut down air travel, essentially telling America, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” Our Storyteller-In-Chief should have told us a very different story. He should have said that, if we reacted in fear, we would be doing the terrorists’ jobs for them. So every patriotic American who had the means ought to go immediately to the nearest airport, buy a round trip ticket to anywhere, and get into the air. Tell the crazies that we will not fear them. If they want to do us damage, they’ll have to do it the hard way. We won’t do it for them. But no, that’s not what happened. So you’re right, Randy, we’re living in fear and we need to stop.

  20. j columbus ohio September 22, 2015 at 8:39 am #

    I usually agree with most of your logic. However…..you blame conservatives for the basis of PC thought. I totally disagree.

    Liberals are the ones who are hauling this kid in for his clock.

    They are the ones who are the word police on campuses across this country. They are the ZERO tolerance group.
    Conservatives like guns and make bombs in their back yards for fun. I did as a kid, and it was fun. Today I would be arrested. Thank you liberal policy…….

    Conservatives welcome discussion, while liberals stuff it because that’s how they FEEL …so facts don’t matter.

    So while conservatives may question global warming (now a sinful idea to question authority) and say muslims may not all be wonderful and should be looked at more closely at airports (common sense in Europe)….we get called names and our ideas are ridiculed.

    The PC police are everywhere and they over rule common sense….that is what happened here….and yes the kid might have been tweeking the system…and the system jumped, not because he was a muslim, but because ZT has no room for common sense.

    Where did I — or any previous commenter — mention political correctness? -rc

  21. Joe -- New York September 22, 2015 at 9:17 am #

    Of course it was a bomb. All bombs (in movies) have timers to let the audience know how long the hero has to defuse them. The clock tower is just an old one. Modern bombs have digital displays. (If your knowledge of bombs comes from the media, anyway).

    And BTW, that British photo isn’t Big Ben. It’s the Westminster clock tower. Big Ben is the bell and you can’t see it.

  22. Randy in Rotterdam, NY September 22, 2015 at 10:00 am #

    The purpose of terrorism is to terrify. Period. Like nearly every other American, I despise what terrorists did SEP. 11. That said, no one can dispute the terrorists did their job well. The terror they struck into the soul of this nation shows no sign of abating and was reaffirmed last week.

    America’s terror is manifested in government buildings, such as court houses or service agencies offices, being hardened with barriers, always-locked doors, new security desks, CCTV, attack warning systems, and airport-like screening for all visitors.

    Now, reminiscent of the McCarthy era fear of communist agents behind every lamp-post, small town police forces, schools, and even mall security guards seem to have developed a hair trigger (I hope that word doesn’t earn me a visit from a DHS agent!) for sniffing out the countless terrorists that roam among us.

    The tragic thing is that some of these folks are not only willing but EAGER to sacrifice liberty, the bedrock on which America is built, in the name of phony security. The “Mohamed’s clock” incident of SEP. 14 is a textbook example of Ben Franklin’s warning in 1755:

    “Those who would give up Essential Liberty, to purchase a little Temporary safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

  23. Dave - Oregon September 22, 2015 at 10:17 am #

    Thank You for writing what needs to be said.

    ‘Teach Kids HOW to think not WHAT to think’ — how true and absolutely necessary today!

    ‘“Stop teaching kids the truth! Don’t trample my myth! It deserves equal time!” No. No it doesn’t.’ — Beautiful!

    ‘Those aren’t American values, that’s plain cowardice. It’s time for America to grow up.’ — Sweet music to my eyes!

  24. Seth - Hood River, OR September 22, 2015 at 10:24 am #

    Very true Paul, and I thought it at the time. I went on a business trip to Israel a few weeks after 9/11, I didn’t want the terrorists to win.

    While I am not a conspiracy theorist, it seems to me that the ratcheting up of fear is in the best interests of those who want to obtain and maintain political power.

    And the news media has a lot of fault to bear. Over 10 years ago I was in an online university, and the topic of GPS watches for kids came up. A lot of people thought it was a great idea. Not in case their kid wandered off, but because of fear of abduction. Funny thing is, stranger abductions have remained pretty constant since the FBI started keeping statistics, around 100 per year. These events used to be local stories, now they are repeated around the country.

    Be suspicious of people who want you to be afraid, whether it is to cause you to vote a certain way, or to consume their fear mongering media.

    P.S. Was disappointed to find out that the clock was likely a repackaged commercial model, but doesn’t change the thrust of the article in my opinion.

  25. Don, Northern NY September 22, 2015 at 10:27 am #

    “These are people claiming to be Christians, yet persecuting others because their God told them to.”

    John, let’s be meticulous here — it’s not because their God told them to, it’s because somebody told them that God told them to. Few people claim to be in regular communication with God, and that what they do or believe comes from God himself, direct to them. If religion weren’t primarily the political proselytizations of intermediaries, there couldn’t be as many alleged “Christian” religions and sects as there are; there’d only be one Christian religion, and those who call themselves “Christians” would actually follow the teachings of Christ — there’s be no massive anti-immigrant movement among them, for instance.

    But Randy called this exactly right. The commentary, if you look at it carefully, shows how subtle and ingrained this kind of buried tribalism is, and how far we are from the founders’ motto, “E pluribus unum”. Concluding that a home-built clock is a bomb component, and not just a clock, requires a distinct mind-set and some fundamental assumptions which don’t play well in the light of reason; a bomb requires explosives, period; a “hoax bomb” requires a bomb threat, period.

    To those who buy the conservative-promulgated proposition that it was a ploy to get just the reaction they got, I ask — what kind of school and town can be relied on to freak out and arrest a kid who brings a home-built clock to school? If they foresaw that that would be the reaction, then the school administration and police are just as bad as depicted.

  26. Eileen in San Jose September 22, 2015 at 10:28 am #

    I and my ex were born in the 50s. He developed into a tinkerer/inventor. He made many timer/clock/radio arrangements in his teens. He is of Jewish descent, and looks the part. There was never any hoo-hah about his projects, many of which were made to fit plastic boxes of various designs. He got very good grades from his lab teachers. There was never any reaction about this Jewish kid building bombs. Let’s face it. Lots of teen boys like to tinker. Lots of teen boys like to piss off their teachers. I think it was a combo of bad ZT, freaky school staff and a questionable decision by a teen boy, who belongs to a sub-set of humanity who are famous for making questionable decisions.

  27. Michae , Albuquerque September 22, 2015 at 11:18 am #

    There are two things going on in this country in an effort to control the population. We are being subjected to fear and guilt. This is a perfect example of the result of fear mongering. In order to keep us from concentration on the government’s mishandling of the economy, eroding our civil rights, and corruption, they needed an enemy to keep us in fear. 9/11 gave them that enemy and suddenly all Muslims are to be feared. Now we can engage in stupid unwinable wars (which profit the corporations that fund the political campaigns) and erode our freedoms in order to protect ourselves from “the evil Muslims”. Kinda reminds me of the cold war. Then Russia was no credible threat to the US just as ISIS is no threat now. Yes, Russia could have caused some damage, but only at the risk of total annihilation. ISIS might inspire some nut cases to do shootings or bombings but they aren’t going to invade.

    The side effect of this fear mongering is things like this case, stupid statements like “no Muslim can be president,” mosque bombings, and beatings of Muslims. Reminds me of McCarthy hearings, and the “no Woman, Catholic, or Black can ever become president” crap that went on in the 50s.

    On the other hand the left wing is trying to control us with guilt. “Women get paid less than men for the same work”. “The life expectancy of inner city blacks is less than white suburbanites.” Police arrest more people of color than whites. The jail population is mostly Black. Climate change is caused by burning fossil fuels.The list goes on and on.

    Serious unbiased research will show that, while there are some issues that should be addressed, most of these discrepancies are caused by factors other than race, gender, and CO2. The problem is that all this guilt mongering is distracting us from the real root of the problems and causing us to throw resources at things that are at the least unproductive, and at the worst just serve to enrich those who are guilting us.

    So yes, we have become a nation racked with guilt and fear. All shoved at us in an effort to keep us from thinking for ourselves and seeing what’s really going on.

  28. Ken, Colorado September 22, 2015 at 11:35 am #

    In one of your responses you said in part: “with presidential candidates like Ben Carson saying that Muslims shouldn’t be eligible to be the President of the U.S.” What I believe Dr. Carson said was: “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that”.

    I think there’s a notable difference in your characterization of his remarks and what he actually said. I’ve always found you to be one who selects your words rather carefully. What happened here?

    I admit I paraphrased that liberal bastion, the Wall Street Journal, and here is the exact verbiage I paraphrased, perhaps a bit too strongly: “GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson said Islam isn’t consistent with the Constitution and volunteered that a Muslim shouldn’t be president.” -rc

  29. Craig, Oregon September 22, 2015 at 1:11 pm #

    I love that picture of Big Ben with the news caption and I want to post it on my Facebook page. But I thought I should also mention where I got it, so would you be willing to turn it into an advertisement (add This Is True and url to the pic)? If not I’ll just mention This Is True in my post.

    I appreciate your asking. I didn’t want to put TRUE and its URL on there because this wasn’t my idea — I just recreated what I saw last week since I couldn’t find “the good one” I had seen (only a really cruddy one). So post away, and I’m happy for you to include the URL to this page with your post. Thanks! -rc

  30. Margaret, Pennsylvania September 22, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

    All the anticipated media hype was worth it in the end: The Ahmed Mohamed STEM scholarship fund has collected over $6000, Space Camp has extended him a scholarship, Bitcoin Foundation Director Bruce Fenton has promised $250,000, another Ahmed Mohamed GoFundMe campaign to send the boy to MIT has garnered $1310, ANOTHER Scholarship Fund for Ahmed Mohammed GoFundMe Scholarship fund has reached $7840 plus other scholarship offers — and of course an invitation to the White House.

    Turned out very well for Ahmed.

    Indeed so. Of course, I’ve heard rumors that “some” of the GoFundMe campaigns are fraudulent, so anyone wishing to contribute should be quite careful — as is always the case online. -rc

  31. Michael, Albuquerque September 22, 2015 at 3:08 pm #

    Personally I believe that Christian (or any other religion) fundamentalism is inconsistent with the Constitution, because they try to force their belief system onto other people.

    Freedom of religion implies freedom from religion.

  32. Morgan, CO September 22, 2015 at 11:47 pm #

    Lenny, your cell phone makes a much better bomb detonator than a clock. You’d probably better start leaving that dangerous thing at home now.

    And if he doesn’t, he’s clearly a terrorist. -rc

  33. Scott, Oregon September 23, 2015 at 12:53 am #

    As a longtime free subscriber, I have read many stories in these issues that make me shake my head and wonder just what’s going on in this country anymore.

    Now that these types of stories are all over social media I know we’re heading down a very slippery slope, and that most people react to the images and stories thrown up in a hurry “to be first with the ‘news'” without really thinking or researching.

    This is just another piece where people who should know better instead give into the easy path and just react without any real thought or consideration for what is really happening.

    To go along with your Superman comment, I wish I could post here a picture I found of a 1950’s poster of Superman talking to school kids about being American. I did post that picture in the comments on Facebook for this article.

    I have it already, and have been meaning to post it on Facebook — I think that’s what was in my mind when I invoked Superman. I’ve added it to the body of the essay. -rc

  34. Bill, Arlington Heights, IL September 23, 2015 at 9:01 am #

    I first became aware of the fear explanation watching Michael Moore’s movie on Columbine, and have been thinking about it ever since. This is perhaps the safest, most secure country on earth (except for the plethora of gun deaths), yet a lot of citizens are xenophobic and scared for their lives. The news media, with its “if it bleeds it leads” mentality, and politicians looking for votes are the main culprits, with the education system that seems to abhor the idea of students thinking for themselves in a strong third place.

  35. Nikki - Phoenix, AZ September 23, 2015 at 10:11 am #

    Tim asked “If telling the truth is “lack of cooperation” I wonder what asserting your Miranda rights (“you have the right to remain silent”) or 5th amendment rights would mean….”

    I have two teenage daughters (and two younger sons) who I talk to about current events and all sorts of other things. Very recently we had a discussion about Miranda rights and I explained to them what their rights are and that they should always exercise them when appropriate. My older daughter then tells me “Really? I mean, only guilty people won’t talk, right? That’s what you always see and hear on TV.”

    THIS is why I’m having these conversations, so they understand that exercising those rights is not an admission of guilt. Unfortunately in this day and age, that’s exactly what our kids think it means until told otherwise.

    For the record, I will be retelling them until they understand it, because I’m not entirely sure I was believed and it’s an important lesson to learn. We also tied it in with a lengthy conversation about when it’s appropriate, among other things.

    Here’s a tool to give them the same message from a different angle — one that all parents should consider showing to their kids for the exact reasons you state, and it’s right here on this blog: Don’t Talk to the Cops. -rc

  36. Jenna, Michigan September 24, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    First of all, I want to say thank you to Tim, Belgium for saying one of the things I was going to mention that I don’t remember anything about him not being willing to answer questions unless answering “Why did you build a hoax bomb?” with “I didn’t; it’s a clock” is considered not answering.

    Anyway, I just hate that everyone is always assumed to have an ulterior motive and also that it is assumed that “Assimilating to the American culture” is considered by many to mean “embrace Christianity”. I know people from atheist, to pagan to Christian, Jew and “more Catholic than the Pope” and I don’t think it should be considered PC nor unreasonable to say that they should all be treated to the respect worthy of any sentient being.

    I just wish there was some way to fix the confirmation bias that so many have that make them unable to see when they are wrong. I’ve read studies that show that showing someone indisputable facts that prove them wrong only make them more certain that they are right. How do you fight that kind of insanity?

  37. Steve - Orlando September 25, 2015 at 8:54 pm #

    That TV program, Scorpion …. they should do a takeoff on this incident. After all, their lead character supposedly was arrested by the FBI for trying to get the plans for the space shuttle while he was that age.

    I wonder if this Ahmed kid has seen this TV program????? Maybe THAT gave him inspiration. Hmmmmmmmm.

  38. Mark, Las Vegas September 25, 2015 at 9:57 pm #

    The principal should be arrested and suspended without pay. After all, both he and the English teacher are wearing watches on their wrists and are carrying cell phones, clearly bomb-making paraphernalia.

  39. arthur wv September 25, 2015 at 11:16 pm #

    Reference Superman and his comments…you do realize that in Action Comics issue 900 Superman renounces U.S. citizenship?

    Clearly a Muslim communist, then. -rc

  40. George, Pennsylvania, USA September 26, 2015 at 5:57 am #

    If the schools are going to take issue with pretend guns and plastic knives, then they should do the same with bomb-a-likes. That is treating them equally. I agree that the zero tolerance and lack of discerning thought is the real problem in all those instances, and none of them should have been escalated beyond the teacher and patents. However, timed IEDS are often real clocks which have been taken apart and had explosives substituted for the alarm/buzzer, and transferring the guts of a clock to another casing is far from “making a clock”. He made a real IED without the explosives. If a kid had brought in a real gun without the ammunition (even without a magazine or firing pin), he would have gotten worse. And though he may be smarter than most, this doesn’t prove that — he didn’t even rewire it to do something different, he just moved the guts. ZT is stupid, but in our ZT world he was treated fairly. Except the fame and White House part. THAT is where the inequality is.

  41. Kevin - at home September 26, 2015 at 6:16 am #

    Wow. Randy, I can’t believe the position you’re taking here. Glad I’ve put off getting a paid subscription.

    This stunt was the equivalent of you making copies of any random crap out of a newspaper, taking them to a dark movie theater and yelling “Flyers! Flyers!”

    Explain during your arrest that you didn’t exactly say “fire”. Show the judge your “flyers” as evidence. Make sure you blame the people who were injured or killed in the panic for “being fearful”. Tell them it was just a “social experiment”.

    Better yet, go get a clock and wire it up like this kid did and take it openly into an airport — better yet, a police station or military base. Maybe you can still publish this blog from your cell. Maybe not.

    Better still, take it into an Israeli school or a Madras, even just a mosque. Make out your will first, your survivors will need it.

    Which one of the teachers involved here do you think are Ordinance Disposal qualified to declare this device to be an fake bomb? A single pound of any modern explosive could kill dozens — and would fit nicely in the little Mystery Bag that had nothing to do with being a clock.

    I wonder if you would have different feelings (as opposed to rational thoughts) if this happened at YOUR childrens’ school? Or you found this device in your mailbox? What are you going to think if you answer your front door and find someone wearing a very bulky vest, holding a switch? “Must be those radical Mormons trying to give me a bible”?

    What are you going to do if you see some guys park a moving van in front of your house and drive quickly away in another car? But I’ll bet you live in a gated community…

    Guess what? This shit is real. Maybe you’d do better to concentrate on real news for a while instead of goofy little oddities…. and looking for validation with your snarky, smug comments.

    The remark of the arresting officer tells the story — this kid was well known for his little “social experiment” stunts. Obviously. How many times do you have to fake it before you can bring in a real bomb and everyone thinks its just another fake? How many times do you have to board a plane with a box cutter?

    How much easier is it after this stunt for someone to bring in a REAL bomb the next time? The teachers won’t want THIS attention and the attacks again — maybe they’ll be shamed into ignoring it. I guess it isn’t important if YOUR kids aren’t in that school, right?

    You advocate looking the other way when you see a MUSLIM with a device like this — would you say the same thing about a skinhead? Or even just a white kid?

    Face the truth – this kid made a fake, realistic looking bomb and took it into a school. All it needed was a real payload to be a real bomb. No responsible adult would take it lightly. The 50’s are gone…. ask Europe.

    Fear is a funny thing, Randy — it’s one of the key elements of survival. Some people react in a way that will mitigate the threat, facing the horrible possibility that it’s real until proven otherwise — they are the heroes — they protect their fellows. Others completely freak out, freeze, and go into denial and rationalize with things like “it can’t happen here” or “if I go along, maybe they’ll leave me alone”.

    You don’t seem to be handling your fear very well at all….

    You “can’t believe” my position, which is that we need to stop living in fear, which feeds right into what ISIS wants, spend 600 words screaming that we SHOULD all live in fear (and you’re so afraid, you can’t even say you live in Maryland), and your conclusion is that *I* am not handling my fear? You’re a very confused man, Kevin. -rc

  42. Bronwyn, Norfolk, VA September 26, 2015 at 8:45 am #

    I remember, just after 9/11, my best friend at the time telling me how she almost got arrested for doing her homework. We were doing projects in Social Studies about architecture — I don’t remember the exact parameters of the assignment, but part of her project involved taking photographs of various buildings around the city with good examples of Ionic, Doric, and Corinthian columns. Naturally, most of those were federal buildings. She was snapping pictures while her mother pointed out several good examples when a police officer approached them, hand on his gun, and demanded to know what they were doing. Apparently, he didn’t believe when my friend explained about the project — especially after he asked to see their IDs and her mother, who was a civilian contractor with the Navy, produced her military ID. He practically interrogated my friend and her mother, asking for the name of our school, our teacher’s name, the school’s phone number, to investigate what was in the trunk. My friend was half-laughing and half-wide-eyed with terror when she told me all this on the bus the next morning.

    Perhaps this is a good time to mention that my friend is Greek — as in, either first or second-generation American (I forget whether her mother was an immigrant or was born in the country). This is also probably a good time to mention that we were in seventh grade. She had just turned thirteen. And this police officer decided she was a terrorist, just because she had dark hair and a big nose and was taking pictures of buildings.

    I have a younger brother, and as someone pointed out above, fourteen-year-old boys are, generally speaking, kind of idiots. When he was Ahmed’s age, he read the Student Handbook and Code of Conduct we were all required to sign on the first day of school (one of the few kids to actually do so) and pointed out to his teacher–in front of the entire classroom — that, under “suspendable offenses”, the school listed a lot of things, including making bomb threats — but that bringing an actual bomb to school was not listed. Or, as my brother put it, “You can bring a bomb to school and blow it up if you want, and they can’t suspend you as long as you don’t SAY ‘I’m gonna bring a bomb to school and blow it up.’ I mean, they can arrest you, but they can’t suspend you.” The next year, they changed the language in the handbook to reflect that, no, actually, you WILL be suspended or expelled for bringing a bomb or incendiary device to school.

    No, nobody arrested or suspended my brother. He never left the school in handcuffs. Heck, he never even spent time in detention. But then, my brother has blond hair, blue eyes, and skin so pale he glows in the dark. Imagine what might have happened if our great-grandparents had come from Saudi Arabia instead of Norway.

  43. Oscar, Wyoming September 26, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

    I believe the school officials and the police acted in a very responsible manner. If my kids were in that school I’d be horrified if they’d acted any differently. But they were obviously baited and the kid should be held accountable for that. It’s better to be safe than sorry…all you have to do is to look around the world and see what’s going on.

  44. Butch/Texas September 26, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

    I took the write up you posted on this weeks weekly issue. I copied and pasted it to a word program. I then printed on some nice heavy paper and put in a nice frame. It’s hanging on my office wall. Not only is it well written it conveys a message I can easily get behind. I gave you the full writing credit but still felt I should ask If it’s OK to use it.

    Works for me. Thanks, Butch. -rc

  45. Les - Loveland CO September 26, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

    Your “facts” on the Crusades are reversed. It was Islam that had the policy of “convert or die.” The Crusades went there to take back the lands from Islam.

  46. Diana in Dallas September 26, 2015 at 8:40 pm #

    I don’t think you looked at all sides of this story. First — the kid kept pulling it out to show others & even set it to ring during one class — after being told by the electronics teacher to put it away. second — the boy’s older sister was disciplined by the same school district 1-3 years previously for a fake bomb threat. Third — CAIRO responded within MINUTES a of the arrest — telling me that this was prearranged with them. Additionally, the boy’s father has some history of actions which bring about weird media coverage. Also, the Irving police reported that when questioned at the school about the “clock”, the boy’s answers were not forthcoming and were “vague”. Any 14 year old in a modern school knows to answer police to the best of your ability (even a geek) in order to avoid more harassment. Irving has been chosen by Muslims as a place to advance there priorities. Whether this was really a “hoax bomb” or a brilliant student being persecuted because he’s muslim, or an attempt to see how easy it would be to take a real bomb into school, it succeeded in bringing the spotlight again to Irving, putting the school & police under public ridicule and dividing an already divided community.

    How could anyone think it was possible to look at all sides of the story? For about the 1,110th time, TRUE is news commentary. We can only comment on the news we see, and we identify our source. Did we include details that came out after the story was written? Of course not. Is this story still a great illustration of living in fear, which is exactly what terrorists want out of their actions? Of course it is. Look at the big picture and understand the commentary. Otherwise, you’re missing the forest for the trees. -rc

  47. Vicki, Arkansas September 27, 2015 at 10:44 am #

    Wrong. Do a little more research next time. It is illegal to bring a device to school that even has the APPEARANCE of an explosive device. So even after it was determined that the contraption he brought was not a bomb, it also had to be determined that there was no intent of imitating an explosive device. Electronic bits and bobs in a box with a digital clock face is close enough to warrant suspicion.

    Secondly, I’m tired of people referring to this kid as smart. Devious maybe, but not necessarily smart. He didn’t invent squat. He dissembled a clock and stuck it in a new case. If he had done that for an assignment in my class, he would have been lucky to get a “C”. It bordered on plagiarism. And finally, demonizing the school staff for being aggressive is the wrong path to go down. All over my campus are signs, “If you see something suspicious, report it.” This was suspicious. The teacher was right to report it. So what if it turned out to be nothing, the next one may not. As many people have pointed out, had he walked in an airport or federal building with this contraption, he would have been resoundingly cuffed and interrogated.

    1) Please cite the specific law you insist makes it illegal to have a clock at school.

    2) It was already made clear within the story that he didn’t “invent” anything, so you’re pounding this bit as if it’s a revelation …why?

    3) If the kid isn’t smart, yet was able to manipulate the school officials in the way you say, then there is only one conclusion: the school officials are dumber than dirt.

    4) If the device was so “suspicious,” why didn’t the first teacher do something about it? Or the second teacher? Or the third teacher? Or…?

    5) If they thought it really was a bomb, why didn’t they evacuate the school?

    6) Once it was clear that it was “nothing,” why was he arrested? You contend he was arrested over “nothing”? This is reasonable, how?

    The bottom line is, this case was hugely bungled, and no amount of rationalization changes that. And the point, again, is that it’s ridiculous to live in such fear that we do stupid things that play right into the hands of the actual terroristic jihad against us. -rc

  48. Pete, Ohio September 27, 2015 at 11:10 am #

    While the schools reaction was kinda dumb, nobody seems to realize this poor kid was manipulated and set-up by his father. He was intentionally sent to school with something that DID look suspicious. Even as a kid I wouldnt have made something called a clock in a case like that. Expelling the boy AND his sister for both their actions which I’m certain were orchestrated by the father was the BEST action for the school to take. They dont need that sort of pranking to go unpunished.

    If the event WAS dismissed, there would be more “clocks” show up at public schools WITH explosives at a later date across the country.

  49. Dave, Maryland September 27, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    Man, I’m just really fuckin’ glad that I’m out of shcool at this point. I wonder how many science projects are going to be nixed by parents becuase they look at what their kid made and say “Shit, it could be mistaken for a bomb!” You also have to wonder how much this kind of shit stops kids from doing any kind of creative projects, and how much that fucks with thier development, and how much it fucks with development of new items in general: If no one tries to do new stuff, well, shit stagnates. And, God help any kid who drives to school if their car catches fire due to a mechanical malfunction. That would REALLY get people worried. Have a good one, and remember, Of all the things the U.S. lost, I think we miss our BALLS the most.

  50. Michael – not that one, the other one! SFBA September 28, 2015 at 9:03 pm #

    Here it is: another “when I was in school” story…

    I graduated high school in 1982, in Massachusetts. It was (and still is) the only high school in town.

    In 1980, the school had a drug lockdown. They started the sniffer dogs on the first floor — the seniors were on the third floor. Friend of mine got bored after two hours, figured he had stuff to do it home, and left class. Got stopped at the doors of school by cops with weapons drawn. Was kept in the office until the end of the lockdown, but was never searched.

    He, another friend, and I would spend lunch periods talking about how to convert the school to a bomb shelter, how to blow up the school, AND how to build bombs — one of my two friends had to build pipe bombs to get rid of granite boulders on his farm.

    Not once did a teacher or staff or administrator ever talk to us about it.

    So much has changed since then. And 90% of it is because of the fear. It’s sad, that’s what it is.

  51. Seth - Hood River, OR September 29, 2015 at 7:34 pm #

    I have debated about making this additional post. I realize that it has no chance of swaying those who rationalize our environment of fear. Funny thing is, this is nothing new. We have had to fight against this for the whole history of the United States. There is a dynamic tension between liberty and safety. My stance is when safety concerns triumphs over liberty, we all lose.

    Let’s start with Benjamin Franklin. “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

    In 1798 we passed the Alien and Sedition Acts — they said at the time this is different, we have to protect ourselves from treason.

    In the late 19th century we had Jim Crow laws and lynching. A truly terrible time — they said at the time, this is different, we have to protect ourselves against the threat of racial equality.
    In WW I we passed the Espionage Act of 1917 — they said at the time, this is different, we are at war and have to suppress freedom of speech to protect us from the enemy.

    In 1942 we sent our citizens of Japanese descent to internment camps. One of the blackest crimes ever to be committed in America — they said at the time, this is different, we have to protect ourselves from domestic sabotage.

    In the 50’s we had McCarthyism — black lists, inquisitions, lives ruined — they said at the time, this is different, we have to protect ourselves against the threat of communism.
    In the 60’s, the FBI turned ordinary citizens into suspected criminals, because they dared to speak out against injustice — they said at the time, this is different, we have to protect ourselves against the threat of communism.

    In the 80’s we had the Satanic Ritual Abuse panics. Hundreds, maybe thousands of lives ruined — they said at the time, this is different, we have to protect ourselves against Satanists.

    In recent history, we have had government sanctioned torture, the Patriot Act, Zero Tolerance and much else — they say now, this is different, we have to protect ourselves against terrorists.

    Will we ever learn?

  52. Pete- Ohio October 6, 2015 at 10:39 pm #

    Well by now since PLENTY more details have come out on the story, we now know the whole thing REALLY WAS a publicity stunt orchestrated by the father. The kid has been in LOTS of trouble with the school before and was suspended along with his sister who DID threaten harm to the school.

    These people deserve deportation, not publicity.

    If you want to make a claim, cite your references, and maybe state your reasons why all people who pull off any sort of “publicity stunt” should be deported. But let’s go with the facts, shall we? The local newspaper (our original source, The Dallas Morning News) has looked into the various conspiracy theories and concluded, “Most of these theories cite no evidence, many contradict each other and some clash with known facts.” Indeed, “No theory that The News has reviewed cites any evidence that Ahmed, who routinely brought electronic creations to his middle school and said he wanted to impress high school teachers, planned to get handcuffed and hit the news.” Rather, “a police investigation determined the student apparently did not intend to cause alarm bringing the device to school.”

    Further, “Ahmed’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, …has run several times for president of his native country, Sudan, campaigning on a platform to end the country’s support for terrorism, abolish repressive laws and let people convert from Islam.” That’s the kind of Muslim you want to deport? Seriously? As for the boy being coached, “A reporter for The News visited Ahmed’s house several times after the boy’s story went viral. The family let the reporter talk to Ahmed alone, and no one coached him during these visits.” (Source)

    And again, the original story covered this clearly: coached or not, if a 14-year-old kid can manipulate school officials that effectively to reach a publicity objective, it proves he is brilliant, while the school officials make the Keystone Kops look like polished professionals. The bottom line remains, it’s stupid for Americans to constantly live in fear. The “problem with this country” isn’t kids like Ahmed, but obliviots promoting fear over reason. -rc

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