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Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014
Steve Otto Columns

Otto: It was a big week for the knuckleheads

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Published:   |   Updated: April 16, 2014 at 11:13 AM

A mother walking her 4-year-old child on a gorgeous spring morning in West Tampa has to be aware of certain things.

She has to keep an eye on him that he doesn't dart out into traffic. She needs to make sure he doesn't start playing with stray dogs. She might not want him out too long in the Florida sun.

And, oh yes, be very careful to dodge stray bullets.

Fortunately, if you can see anything fortunate in this, the bullet that struck the boy in the arm was fired from about 250 yards away.

Unfortunately, if you listen to witnesses and accounts from the neighbors, flying bullets are not all that uncommon in the Tampa Gardens public housing neighborhood. Crime may be way down in the city of Tampa, but in certain areas, like this one, police sirens and stray bullets are a part of life.

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Police Chief Jane Castor rightly called the alleged shooter a “knucklehead,” while adding that knuckleheads are in the minority.

I'll buy that. But on the same morning, a few hours earlier, a Tampa police helicopter was flying over North Tampa when someone took three shots at it with a shotgun.

Police later found the shotgun and made an arrest, but the cops in the helicopter were lucky. It only takes one knucklehead.

Knuckleheads come in all sizes. Some are just ignorant of others. Then there is Frazier Glenn Cross, a 73-year-old man who was charged this week with the premeditated slayings of three people, including a teenager and his grandfather, at a Jewish Community Center on the eve of Passover. The irony is that his victims were not Jewish.

It seems Cross is a former “grand dragon,” kind of a king of the knuckleheads of the Ku Klux Klan. It's what happens when ignorance and hate are perfect vehicles for knuckleheads.

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On a larger scale this week was the story of professor Mohammed Dajani. A few weeks ago the professor took 27 students from Al-Quds University to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. At the same time a group of Jewish students from Ben-Gurion and Tel Aviv Universities went to Bethlehem to listen to Palestinian refugees tell their stories of being displaced from what they believe to be their country.

Coming back, the Palestinian professor found himself accused of treason. It was suggested that he even leave town.

You would like to think that people such as Dajani would be encouraged to teach what most of the world already understands was a truly terrible part of history.

Dajani, according to a story published in the Washington Post, was a former “firebrand” in the Fatah wing of the Palestine Liberation Organization who had become a proponent of moderate Islam.

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Again, I think Tampa's police chief is right when she says knuckleheads are in the minority, whether they are using violence, hate or just plain ignorance to make their way through our lives.

I'm not sure education would have kept a 4-year-old boy from getting shot on a spring morning, or prevented someone from firing at a police helicopter in the middle of the night.

But if we can do anything to reduce the number of knuckleheads on the streets — including just putting them away — then we ought to do our best.

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