Sometimes, when we see words written down, we get the wrong end of the stick. Things tend to get worse when we take that stick and wave it around at someone.
This might well be the case in the story of Vito LaPinta, a 7th-grader from Tacoma, Wash.
It appears that he wrote something after the death of Osama Bin Laden as a Facebook update. The account offered by Vito to KCPQ-TV seems quite simple. "I was saying how Osama was dead and for Obama to be careful because there could be suicide bombers," he said.
From the video, Vito seems to be a perfectly intelligent and articulate 13-year-old. So some might find it peculiar that a Secret Service agent reportedly came to the school in order to have a little chat.
Vito told KCPQ-TV: "A man walked in with a suit and glasses and he said he was part of the Secret Service. He told me it was because of a post I made that indicated I was a threat toward the president."
Vito's mom, Timi Robertson, says that her son was interviewed by the Secret Service for 30 minutes without her presence. The school district reportedly believed that she didn't take its call seriously, an account she describes as "a blatant lie."
She told KCPQ-TV: "I just about lost it. My 13-year-old son is supposed to be safe and secure in his classroom and he's being interrogated without my knowledge or consent privately."
Some might imagine that the Secret Service might have misinterpreted words along the lines of "should be careful."
That is, after all, a phrase construction that has been heard in one or two Mafia movies. However, it has rarely been uttered by 7th-graders in Mafia movies. Nor even, as far as I can remember, in "Bugsy Malone."
So some might ponder how this young boy with blonde hair and a very fetching blue streak at the front might have been deemed a threat. Was the Secret Service's visit subsequent to a few inquiries? Or was the visit standard procedure if certain keywords--or order of keywords--appear on somebody's Facebook page?
The Secret Service has yet to comment on its visit, though it seems that, having listened to the teen's perfectly reasonable explanation, the serviceman was satisfied that Vito was not a bad guy at all.
I know there will be those who feel that this was handled with rather heavy fists by the Secret Service. But would it have been entirely impossible for the school to have protected Vito until his mother had turned up?
Could the school have kept Vito under surveillance, or in a room with a teacher, so that at least his mother could have a chance to, well, be his mother?
Here's one other thing some might find curious. I just went to Vito's Facebook page. How many friends does he have? Seven.