When common sense takes a hike

While perusing a local community blog this week I ran into an article that described Cheltenham Township’s (PA) declaration of a day in honor of Josh Fattal.  Fattal – many will recall – is one of the hikers taken captive by Iranian forces along the Iraq-Iran border in 2009

Fattal is a native of Cheltenham Township, a suburban Philadelphia community. 

I can certainly see why his hometown would want to celebrate his safe return in good health and spirit.  But I fail to see the logic of honoring in such an official manner one who so flagrantly dismissed common sense and made decisions that resulted in a costly, diplomatically embarrassing situation for his country and two years of anguish for his family and friends. 

Despite that I readily concede their “right” to travel freely; accept the premise that they never actually crossed the border with Iran; and refute the accusations that they were spying for the U.S.,  my befuddlement comes down to one simple question.

Who in their right mind would think taking a stroll along the Iraq-Iran border was a good idea for three American citizens during military hostilities to the south in Iraq at a time when Iran was at diplomatic, nuclear-tinged loggerheads with the U.S.?!?

Perhaps the lack of judgement was just youthful exuberance run amok or that sense of invincibility that so often leads young people to think harmful things cannot, will not happen to them.  But either way, it was an extremely poor, irresponsible decision that cost many people – mostly those closest to each of them – incredible despair; taxed the diplomatic and humanitarian efforts of several countries; and could very well have turned out much worse for them than two years spent in Iranian hell.  

I understand the need to celebrate their return, but Josh Fattal Day?  No, that’s too far a hike.


Post Publication Thought:  (Adding this thought as an example of my point, which came to me in the shower this morning as all good ideas should.  Hope the imagery doesn’t sting too badly! )

If Joe McFisherman decides to take his 22-ft pleasure boat out past the breakers despite ominous, well communicated storm warnings, the Authorities are going to be responsible for his rescue once his boat gets swamped in the heavy seas and Joe and his four friends are dumped into the dangerous waters.  I don’t have a problem with that, aside from the fact that Joe’s bone-headed stubbornness could put someone else’s life (the rescuers and passengers) at risk.  (And by the way, Joe should have to pay something towards the costs of his rescue, at least as a monetary inducement to making a better decision next time.) 

Assuming that all goes well, and Joe and his passengers are successfully rescued, you would expect people to be happy for Joe’s safe return.  But you probably aren’t going to “honor” Joe.  And if you did, what exactly would you be “honoring”?  You wouldn’t “honor” his good fortune or his bravery, that resulted from his dumb decision.  And you certainly wouldn’t want to emphasize, publicize or encourage such poor decision-making in others.  

In Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd‘s case, their hike (sinking boat) took over two years to resolve (rescue) due to Iran’s (a well-documented storm) intransigence and desire to use them to embarrass their country.

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