A guest post by Oklahoman and friend Phillip Larsen.
Boiled down to its most basic parts, the difference between liberals and conservatives can be determined on their stance on individual and collective rights. Broadly speaking, conservatives hold ultimate fidelity to individual rights and responsibilities. Broadly speaking, liberals hold ultimate fidelity to collective rights and responsibilities.
Recently, a high school freshman in Texas, a conservative state, brought a clock that he made in his bedroom to show his engineering teacher his work. This high school freshman has a history of ingenuity and a penchant for robotics and engineering. He has created Bluetooth speakers in his home, as well as other inventions. His stated goal is to one day appear on the Shark Tank. He had even joined the school robotics team.
This high school freshman did get to show the clock to his engineering teacher. The teacher inspected his work, and told him “that’s nice, but I would advise you to not show any other teachers.” The high school freshman tried to heed that advice, but the clock made an inadvertent noise in his next period class, which prompted the English teacher to investigate. The clock was confiscated, and shortly thereafter, the high school student was called into the principal’s office, where he was met with five different officers of the Irving Police Department. Ahmed Mohamed was then interrogated, he asked to call his parents and was denied, was then arrested and handcuffed, taken to the juvenile detention center, had his mug shot taken and was fingerprinted, and denied counsel with either an attorney or his parents. The Irving Police Department continued to consider charges against Mohammed several days after the initial incident. They have since released Mohamed without charges. The school suspended Mohamed initially, and did not lift the suspension.
So where is the outcry from conservative leaders of our country? Where is the warning of government overreach? What precisely did Ahmed do that warranted such treatment? Was it because he was born of Sudanese immigrants? Was it because of his name? Was it because of curiosity and passion for robotics and engineering? Was it because he had pride in his work and wanted to impress a mentor figure? If conservatives are concerned with individual responsibility, what did Ahmed Mohammed do, as an individual, which required detainment and a violation of his right to silence, representation, and protection against unreasonable search and seizure?
I have two girls, and ever since Newtown, my greatest fear is to have them in the path of danger as those children were in Connecticut. I understand vigilance. I understand concern. I understand that we live in a world where evil exists. I don’t mind the inquiry. I marginally mind the suspicion. I mind greatly that he had his individual constitutional rights violated. In this instance, there was not a pressing matter and the school was not in immediate danger. Had there been a perceived imminent threat, we need to have a conversation on why the school did not immediately evacuate the school and call the bomb squad.
Not unsurprisingly, scripture speaks: “Come let us reason together, says the Lord” (Isaiah 1:18).
Those who would promote and profit off of a spirit of fear are holding us captive. In my copy of scripture, fear is not a fruit of the spirit! Too often we are presented with the false choice to align ourselves with those who would seek to divide us into demographics and ideologies for no other reason than political gain. If we believe that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, why we have forgotten that God has called us to reason together? Reasoning together would require that we listen as much as we talk. It requires that we try to walk in another person’s shoes, rather than continuously have a presumption that those we don’t completely understand have the worst of intentions. We are not living up to this passage of scripture. We are not engaging in the call to be peacemakers.
As Christians we are called to be, like the Samaritan of Jesus’ story. We are called to pull the beaten man in the ditch and to care for him. We are called to serve those who have been ignored. Note that neither the man who was robbed and left for dead and the Good Samaritan were of the same religion. It is fitting that Jesus would use a Jew and a Samaritan for the parable as Jews and Samaritans wouldn’t be caught dead with each other. Which begs the question, Who will be the Christian who comes to the aid of the Muslim high school freshman?
At the time of this writing, there were no statements, tweets, or posts from conservative leaders defending the individual rights of Ahmed Mohamed. This story embodies the worst nightmares of Rand Paul as the government jackboots trample on the individual’s rights. At the time of this writing, Senator Paul’s twitter was full of blowing up the tax code with various armaments. Constitutional rights is a conservative issue and the silence of conservatives is confounding, and their silence is heard by the entirety of our population.
As a country, we have a presumption of innocence and a defense against searches and seizures that are unreasonable. The fact that Ahmed is a high school student does not change his constitutional protection. Nor does the fact that he’s a Muslim.
This is an issue that conservatives have previously championed, and if they were being intellectually honest, they would be Ahmed Mohamed’s champions, too. Because being his advocate is advocating for our own individual rights. Because when Ahmed Mohamed’s rights are ignored, ours our fair game as well.
What do you think? Agree with Phillip, or disagree?
See also Aaron Earls’ broader discussion of school reactions to “violent” items including Pop Tarts, Ahmed’s Clock: A Time for Wisdom.
(I misspelled Larsen in the title, but don’t want to mess up the share feeds after going live. Sorry dude.)
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