Aug 29, 2006

On Carrying Explosives Aboard Airliners

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Howard MacFarland FishLeft: Howard MacFarland Fish; photo by Nick de la Torre of the Houston Chronicle

(Toledo, OH) I have acted impulsively more than a few times in my life. I once climbed a tall tree to cut down a branch that was blocking a security light outside my business, and I received a smack across the face from the freed limb that nearly knocked me from my 25-foot perch.

I have also broken a few rules in my time, rules that I thought either infringed upon my rights or that seemed pointless. As a young corporate manager in the 1980s I once hired a worker without documentation because I was in a bind for help.

I regret each of these acts, and every other time that I behaved in a reckless, selfish manner.

But at no time have I ever believed it was a good idea to bring dynamite aboard an airliner.

Howard MacFarland Fish, a 21-year-old college student majoring in biology at Pennsylvania's Lafayette College, thought so.

He packed a stick of dynamite in his luggage on a flight to Houston from Argentina last week, and now faces a federal charge of carrying an explosive aboard an aircraft. His father vouched for the younger Fish's good character.

"My son is a college student and a boy who would not hurt anyone," Howard Fish said after posting his son's $75,000 bond.

Maybe so.

Stick of dynamite with detonatorsLeft: "Hmmm...carry-on or checked luggage?"

Fish apparently came into possession of the explosive materials - which included blasting caps and wicks - during a tour of a silver mine in Bolivia. Perhaps the items could have been purloined in a moment of impulsivity; I doubt that the gift shop carries such materials for tourists, although Fish's father claims the items were in a "souvenir bag."

But what could possibly have been going through the mind of this young man? Even if I were completely inebriated I cannot fathom a scenario in which the words "dynamite" and "airline luggage" could be combined into a thought that made anything close to common sense.

(Note: I have made a silent vow that I will not take my 16-year-old son on a plane until he no longer finds hilarious the airport scene in Meet the Parents: "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb. You gonna arrest me? Bomb bomb bomb bomb! During the war I was a BOMBadier!")

Let's hope that Howard MacFarland Fish truly is a boneheaded college student, and that he is indeed remorseful for his actions.

Would this be any consolation, however, to people like Mohammad Iqbal Batliwala, Shaqeel Chottani, or Ayub Kolsiwala, people whose only "crime" was being dark-skinned and speaking a foreign language?

These are the Indian nationals whose appearance frightened passengers and crew members aboard a Northwest Airlines jet, and who were detained by Dutch authorities for 48 hours.

A person who looks like an all-American student, some might reason, can bring explosives on planes, and be considered a nice boy, but those who look and speak differently are "terrorists" until proven otherwise.

We live on a strange planet these days. I think I will drive whenever possible on any long trips.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very sobering, Mike.

Dariush said...

Would this be any consolation, however, to people like Mohammad Iqbal Batliwala, Shaqeel Chottani, or Ayub Kolsiwala, people whose only "crime" was being dark-skinned and speaking a foreign language?

These are the Indian nationals whose appearance frightened passengers and crew members aboard a Northwest Airlines jet, and who were detained by Dutch authorities for 48 hours.

A person who looks like an all-American student, some might reason, can bring explosives on planes, and be considered a nice boy, but those who look and speak differently are "terrorists" until proven otherwise.


To quote the Hindustan Times, "If Brown=terrorist, doesn't White=racist?"

I think the latter generalization is much closer to being true than the former.

I find it incredible that white westerners either are completely ignorant of, or simply don't care, about what it is they are sowing globally, nor what they may reap when its poisonous fruit bears harvest.

After all, a pendulum swings both ways, and, unlike the rest of the world, Europeans, North Americans and Australians simply aren't reproducing at a rate to even maintian their current population levels.


We live on a strange planet these days. I think I will drive whenever possible on any long trips.

You and me both.

Sorry about the tone of this post, but I can't remember a time when I've ever felt this alienated, this "outside," in my own country.

microdot said...

I fly quite often between Europe and the USA. Over the last few years, the levels of security checks and holdups have become routine to me. I am white and can look faiirly respectable if need be, so I always dress down before I fly. I have been almost denied access to a flight because I bought my ticket at the last moment. I have had items removed from my luggage by inspectors and replaced by a note stating that certain items might have been removed for security reasons. Just try to get reimbursed for containers of yellow paint pigment by the FAA (did they think I was smuggling "yellow cake"?). I expect to be searched, questioned and lately, I am grateful when I get through unchallenged. I always think how hard it would be if I was not white. Reading this post about this idiot who managed to smuggle the dynamite made me think of an article I read earlier yesterday about a man who tried to board a plane in the USA with a T Shirt with Arabic writing on it and was told to wear it inside out or forget about his flight. So much of our security now depends on the whims of the airport security staff and their prejudgments. You can be assured that if Howard was not a "nice white boy" he would have disappeared into the bowels of the terrorist detention system and the government would have a multi colored KMart flashig light special terrorist warning alert and we would be told to afraid, be very afraid by Darth Cheney!

Name withheld to protect the guilty said...

What kills me is that dynamite is one of the most basic, early explosives--supposedly, readily detectable. And yet a stick made it on? So much for airport security....

Kathleen Marie said...

Wow, what horrid judgement on part of the boy, if he is indeed as innocent as it seems he may be.


I think in todays society kids are simply not taught to think about the consequences of their actions. They are not taught to think analytically or as my husband says, "they can't see beyond their nose."

This is indeed sobering and this boys life or rather man's life could be distroyed over something so stupid.

My daughter just flew home yesterday from a short visit. She lives in the DC area. She could not take any kind of beverage actually, lotions, shampoos, gels, chapstick, etc... on the plane. She could take fudge.

It is really getting rediculous!

I am also so sorry about what happened to the Indian Nationals. That is so uncalled for.

Hooda Thunkit said...

I hope they teach this kid a real lesson now.

Maybe that's just what he needs to get his head on straight, before he does something even more stupid.

Kids. . .

Mrs. Phoenix said...

This "kid" needs his butt whipped old-school style!