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Authorities’ Response the Real Explosion

A theatrical device malfunctioned and burned a student’s hand on Tuesday, thankfully causing no permanent damage. Why is this national news? Because the student was a member of an MIT fraternity, and was promoting a Halloween charity party to benefit the Leukemia Society.

If anything exploded that day, it was the response: the police, fire department, and bomb squad were called to the scene. The news reported fires, severe injuries, even deaths. But the over-reaction didn’t stop there: Boston authorities raided the fraternity house with bomb-sniffing dogs, evicted the members from their home, and threatened them with substantial fines. Needless to say, the charity event has been canceled.

This treatment by the Boston authorities is nothing short of harassment. Does your school or church run a haunted house? If there’s no construction permit, inspectors might shut it down and issue fines. Do you keep any paint thinner in your garage? They’ll be looking for that “incendiary material” too. Has anyone in your neighborhood shot off firecrackers? Watch out for the bomb squad! Heaven help you if a mouse gets into your kitchen, or you’ll have to throw out all of your food.

These seemingly absurd scenarios were all-too-real for the 27 students who now find themselves without a home. If they’ve learned anything in the past few days, it’s this: opportunistic and irrational politicians, plus arbitrary power to selectively enforce mountains of housing codes, is greater than any amount of goodwill or charity.

Chris Peikert ’00