Fine, Let’s Play That Whole “It Might Have Been A Bomb” Game For a Second
In case your blood pressure this morning isn’t quite high enough, or you need a good reason to drink a case of bourbon and decide the world sucks (again), I got your back: the cops in Irving, Texas arrested a fourteen year-old student for making a clock and bringing it to school. It is, of course, a pure coincidence that the kid in question bears the name Ahmed Mohamed and an appropriately brown appearance to go with it; and it is also a pure coincidence — stop being so paranoid! — that, as Wonkette points out, Irving is a town whose mayor previously threw a hissy fit over a Muslim mediation service, and a neighboring town recently held a Mohammed cartoon contest. The suspected terrorist was badgered by teachers and the principal (who threatened to expel the young criminal unless he wrote a confession that the clock was a bomb, even though it wasn’t), interrogated by cops and finally led away in handcuffs, because as the police spokesman put it, the kid didn’t provide “a broader explanation”. A broader explanation, that is, for the bewildering act of constructing a clock and showing it off to his teachers and classmates. And wingnut America breathed a sigh of relief, knowing we are safe and free.
This morning, in the explosion of commentary (pun totally intended) occasioned by this incident, some “reasonable” folks are saying that we shouldn’t be too hard on the school or the police in this case: sure, what happened is unfortunate, but these days, you can never be too careful! The home-made device had a time display and it was beeping, so the most the authorities are guilty of is an overabundance of caution.
Okay. I’ll play. Let’s go with that whole “overabundance of caution” theory for a second.
Imagine, Dear Reader, that you are a school principal. Or a police officer. There you are, sitting in an all-American building full of wholesome all-American things: bright-eyed kids, angelic blond teachers, American flags, apple pie, soda pop, football and Jesus. But primarily, it’s a building with hundreds of people in it, the majority of them under eighteen. Not three feet away from you is a homemade device that you suspect to be a bomb. You don’t know how it works or how to disable it. You don’t know how powerful it is, or when it will go off. Hell, the school may be reduced to a pile of rubble and mangled corpses even before you finish reading this paragraph. And the scary brown terrorist across the desk from you is being coy.
Oh no, what do you do????
Well, above all, you are an adult and a highly trained professional. You’ve spent your whole career preparing for exactly this kind of a situation. So you calmly weigh your options.
OPTION A: You immediately evacuate the building. You call the bomb squad, the FBI, and Homeland security. You call the EMT to come and be on standby. You prepare for the worst and you put things in motion to do something that’s far more important than interrogation at this moment — minimizing potential casualties and disabling the suspected bomb.
OPTION B: You interrogate the scary brown terrorist and try to get him to write a confession upon pain of being expelled from school, with the supposed “bomb” right there, like someone who doesn’t actually think there is any real danger.
Now, Dear Reader. Would it surprise you to know that the school and Irving’s Finest went with Option B and not at all with Option A?
It’s true what they say about it being impossible to get into someone’s head and find out what they are really thinking. But sometimes, the circumstantial evidence is pretty conclusive that someone is full of shit. Neither the school nor the police seriously believed Ahmed’s clock was a bomb — because if they had, they would have treated it as such. They just seized on the most egregious of pretexts — a youngster’s interest in engineering — to harass and intimidate him, because they don’t like his name, his religion, or his looks. And they are not stopping at harassment and intimidation either — the good folks in Irving are out to kneecap Ahmed’s future too: he’s been suspended for three days (for the crime of going to school whose principal is a hateful idiot) and the police are weighing the option of charging him for making a hoax bomb (even though he told everyone the device was a clock and vociferously denied that it was a bomb).
It’s a no-brainer that eventually, there will be a big fat lawsuit. I am just jealous as hell of the lawyers who will get to depose those “educators” and cops, because it would be like sex to me. I hope those lawyers are experienced and determined enough to keep the goblins in a deposition for days and make it a truly memorable experience.
I know what questions I would ask.
A clarification and an update: Technically speaking, the school principle pressured the student to submit a “written statement”, not a quote-unquote “confession”. I referred to it as a “confession” because as a matter of legal reality, there is no difference. Written statements composed at the urging of adversarially inclined authority figures never serve to exonerate anyone; they are only used to condemn. Had Ahmed complied — and his non-compliance is apparently the real reason for his suspension — then, no matter what he wrote, something would be wrung out of that statement to tarnish him, especially in that part of the country and by those people. Luckily, Ahmed apparently realized that nothing good would ever come of submitting a written statement, so he opted for the principal’s wrath and the suspension as the least of all evils. Problem is, I don’t know whether to cheer this kid for realizing the principal was trying to trap him, or be dismayed at the fact that we’ve reached a point in our national paranoia where a child needs to be able to think like a lawyer (or, at least, a fairly jaded adult) just to avoid losing his liberty and his prospects over nothing at all.