Joining the Rest of the World: Domestic Terrorism at Boston Marathon

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Video available through NBC.com shows the first of two explosions that occurred a little over 4 hours into the Boston Marathon, near its finish line.  The second explosion, 100 yards away, can also be heard over the panicked crowd reaction.   Reports vary as to whether two, twelve, or some other number are dead; at least two dozen are reported to have been wounded.   (The preceding sentence will be updated as more definitive information becomes available.)  Both bombs had reportedly been located in trash cans out of the street.   The photo below also captures the moment of the initial explosion:

Boston Marathon Explosion

Without having read more than a single brief report that mentions nothing below, I can offer an educated guess at what theories are circulating right now: (1) Al Qaeda, (2) racist white supremacists, (3) anti-tax protesters, (4) a “false flag” operation by the government (not necessarily those from either party) itself.  I’m willing to condemn any of the above, or whoever else, committed this act of terrorism on U.S. soil.

Two other things worth keeping in mind, however:

(1) This doesn’t usually happen here in the U.S.  We get our share of destruction (often with firearms) and more than our share of murders, but it’s the rare attempt to terrorize the public — to make us afraid of attending public events — without firearms that is successful.   It’s a good moment to recognize, though, that this is not that uncommon in much of the rest of the world, Western Europe included.   We’re usually insulated from this; this time, we weren’t.   Whatever we’re feeling now is what is frequently felt by both our allies and enemies; that gives us a chance to learn from it — to join the rest of the world and empathize with their fears of violent social instability.   (Unfortunately, after the major tragedy of the 9/11 attacks, this opportunity was generally not taken to heart, which affects our policies about blowing up people overseas to this day.)

(2) What will surely come of this are calls for a larger, stronger, security state — even from people who, most of the time, call for “smaller government.”   Those sorts of calls are almost inevitably eventually shown to be misguided.  Too much power gets concentrated in too view hands, it is deployed selectively to excuse some of the most suspicious or violent targets, and it gets directed towards “low-hanging fruit” like marijuana dealers.  Watch what people say today, in the wake of this tragedy, with an eye towards the idea that the insufficiently restricted power to surveil, like the power to tax, is the power to destroy.  And let’s also bear in mind that however many people turn out to have been killed by this today, many others turn out to be just as dead from intentional or reckless causes — ones more amenable to prevention — as the one we see depicted above.

Our thoughts go our to the victims and others directly affected (mine particularly to at least one friend from Manhattan who was running today, the Patriots Day holiday in Massachusetts.)  But there’s one powerful way to fight terrorism: don’t let ourselves be terrorized by it.  Other cultures similar to ours have faced as bad or worse without breaking down.  Now is a time for calm, strategic, thoughtful policy response — just as much as it is a time to mourn.  We should find who did this an punish them appropriately.  But we should no more crack down unnecessarily on our freedoms than we should give in to terrorist demands — especially because that sort of corrosive convulsion to our society may well be what these terrorists most sought.

Your thoughts, as usual, are welcome.

Update (Links — add ones you think ought to be here in comments):

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/photography/2013/04/boston_marathon_explosions_two_bombs_went_off_by_the_finish_line_photos.html

http://www.businessinsider.com/inspiring-images-from-boston-2013-4

Update 2: Photo of 8-year-old killed in the bombing, Martin

Boston bombing - Martin, 8yo victim

Lucia Brawley writes on Facebook: This is Martin, 8. He died in the Boston bombing yesterday. He was at the finish line with his family, waiting for his dad to cross. His mother and little sister were catastrophically injured. He was the student of our dear friend, Rachel Moo. His message resonates powerfully today. My prayer is that we all live by Martin’s words, paying tribute to his too-brief, but immeasurably valuable life by following his example


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)