Left: 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.
Left: "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.