Taking a page from the "Look at me, I'm needlessly in harm's way; aren't I intrepid?" journalism playbook, Florida teenager and aspiring humanitarian Farris Hassan traveled (without his parents' permission or knowledge) to Baghdad, to "love and help [his] neighbor in distress." Armed with a fistful of cash, a pocket full of grandeur, and a leaky heart full of American guilt, Hassan made his way to Baghdad determined to "broaden [his] mind."
Hassan's humanitarian travails primarily amounted to hanging out in his hotel, balking at the high fares charged by taxi drivers (whom he labeled "evil" for their rates), getting "freaked out" when he couldn't negotiate a food stand with his Arabic phrase book, and seeking solace with the Associated Press, who turned him in to the U.S. Embassy.
He is now on his way home.
Despite his inauspicious results, Hassan had lofty, if simpering and self-aggrandizing, aims, as detailed in his pre-departure essay (excerpting and annotation mine).
There is a struggle in Iraq between good and evil, between those striving for freedom and liberty and those striving for death and destruction. ... Those terrorists are not human but pure evil [they and cabbies, eh?]. For their goals to be thwarted, decent individuals must answer justice's call for help ... So I will. [Oh, thank God.]
I know I can't do much. I know I can't stop all the carnage and save the innocent. But I also know I can't just sit here ...
I feel guilty living in a big house, driving a nice car, and going to a great school. I feel guilty hanging out with friends in a cafe without the fear of a suicide bomber present. I feel guilty enjoying the multitude of blessings, which I did nothing to deserve, while people in Iraq, many of them much better then me, are in terrible anguish. This inexorable guilt I feel transforms into a boundless empathy for the distress of the misfortunate and into a compassionate love for my fellow man.
If I know what is needed and what is right, but do not act on my moral conscience, I would be a hypocrite. I must do what I say decent individuals should do. I want to live my days so that my nights are not full of regrets. Therefore, I must go.
See, there's the problem, Farris. You don't know what's needed. You cutting school and running away from home to hurl yourself into a warzone was not needed by anyone. The move took guts, I'll grant you that. But it also took a misunderstanding of (or at least a willingness to ignore) what you could realistically expect to accomplish and, I suspect, a desire to make a splash simply by being brazen.
Bravery trotted out simply for sake of trotting it out, without any discernible purpose, doesn't serve any humanitarian or journalistic end. The fully foreseeable net effect of this escapade was to cause much family heartache and to unduly burden coalition forces that saw to the teen's safe return.
That said, Hassan has to be given credit for getting a prodigious jump on some best practices of American journalism. Next hurricane season, perhaps he can join the needlessly buffeted brigade of news anchors that bravely (if pointlessly) report on weather conditions from windy beaches and flooded intersections.
Elsewhere: An alert reader has pointed me to his collection of "Save Farris" merchandise (that didn't take long).
Handcrafted by Flip on December 30, 2005 |
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Maybe it was the time the taxi dumped him at the Iraq-Kuwait border, leaving him alone in the middle [Read More]
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