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December 2014: The Worst People on Wheels

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

December 2014: The Worst People on Wheels

Bill Crittenden
December 28, 2014


There are almost no limits to what can be done with or in an automobile. After what seems like a million drunk driver videos and car chases broadcast on TV, the latest news is a reminder of just how bad the really evil people of the world can be on four wheels...

Terrorism by Automobile

In a severe downgrade from the airplane attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a man shouted "Allahu Akbar" and drove his car into a crowd of pedestrians in France, injuring eleven.

The news report said it was the second of the week, a repeat of a type of incident I recall seeing in the news over the summer.

This teeny tiny version of the 9/11 attacks just might become a new "thing," a way to kill and injure innocents without the inconvenience of making a car bomb, which is very technical and is something that police can often see coming by monitoring purchases of explosives and chemical precursors to explosives.

Keep an eye on the international news, and hope this trend doesn't continue.

Instigating a Riot by Automobile

In another bit of automotive destruction, a white Ford Taurus reportedly drove through the Michael Brown memorial placed in the middle of Canfield Drive in Ferguson, Missouri, where he died and his body left to lay for hours in the sun.

It was a similar incident by a police officer in August that turned a small memorial gathering into an angry confrontation between a community and its city's police, eventually escalating into a full-blown riot when no indictment was forthcoming for officer Darren Wilson.

Hopefully the anger doesn't turn to violence again, but one Ford Taurus driver seems hell bent on trying to make it happen.

Holy War by Pickup Truck

Mark Oberholtzer Mark-1 PlumbingThe F-250, with the telephone number blurred in news coverage.
Mark Oberholtzer, a Texas plumber, sold his business' Ford F-250 pickup truck some time back. He probably never expected to see it again, let alone in the news from the battlefields of Syria, with his Mark-1 Plumbing logo and telephone number still clear as day across the driver's door. Behind the Mark-1 logo, there's a machine gun mounted in the bed, firing off into the desert.

And the violence around this truck may not be limited to the Middle East. Since it made the news, Oberholtzer has received death threats by a few deranged folks who actually think that a Texas plumber loaned his truck to Islamic extremists.

A strange lesson to us all: take the logos and phone numbers off your work trucks when you sell them! You can't possibly imagine where they'll end up once they're out of your hands.

World War by Automobile

Magician Penn Jillette, in his "Penn's Sunday School" podcast, mentioned how good donating blood made him feel. It not only saves lives directly, but then the lives he saves might go on to cure cancer or be a firefighter.

Great stuff. But not every life saved is going on to do positive work for the world. What happens if he saves the life of the world's next notorious genocidal maniac?

What made me think of that unpleasant possibility? Penn's comments reminded me of a long forgotten conversation from my youth.

When I was a teenager looking for my place in the world, I mentioned to a friend that there was honor in manual labor. We can't all be President or win the Nobel Peace Prize or cure cancer, and somebody's gotta make sure the world's scientists and doctors can get to work. Being an auto mechanic helps everybody and we should all be able to feel good about keeping the world working in our own small ways.

Then my friend asked, "but what happens if you fix the car of the next Adolf Hitler?"

Fifteen years later and I still don't have a real answer to that question. Or even a decent smartass answer. Fifteen years later and the news, just in the past fifteen days, shows cars used in terrorism, war, and...I honestly don't know how to classify that asshole in Ferguson.

That's a good reminder of ol' Adolf's six-wheel Mercedes, ferrying him from one evil deed to another. Even someone whose crimes against humanity made him the hyperbolic standard of world's worst human being needed a car. Someone needed to change its oil and replace those many tires, and it's not too big a stretch of the imagination to see those mechanics as having a very small role in enabling the horrors of the Second World War.

Just More of the Same

These...people...won't stop me or anyone else from loving and driving our cars. But for those keeping track of all of the automobile's history it's worth noting just how it's been used for both good and evil. And December 2014 seems to have been a good month for evil on wheels, adding to a history that started with the first bank robbery getaway car and includes the car bomb, the drive-by shooting, drunk driving, interstate sex trafficking by truckers, every war since World War I...



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