The way things are now
One suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing is dead. The other, 19-year-old Dzokhar Tsarnaev, is in custody. Tuesday reports say that the surviving bomber, from his hospital bed, indicated they acted alone, without support from outside interests or terrorist groups. The defendant has been charged, and a trial will go down in a Massachusetts federal courtroom.
The bad men have been taken care of. All that’s left are questions.
At what point did the elder Tsarnaev, Tamerian, turn against the country in which he lived? How did he convince his younger brother — by all accounts just a regular college kid, who smoked weed, watched TV, went to campus parties and wanted to be a dentist — to participate in wholesale murder and high-profile terrorism? What did they hope to accomplish?
This act flies in the face of everything we thought we knew. And it leaves us uncertain about how to proceed.
The events of 9/11 — far deadlier but no more terrifying — threw the American people into a similar state. But 9/11, at least on some level, made sense: a concentrated attack on the US centers of business and government, a move by an organized entity with a docu- mented history of aggression against our country, a cast of perpetrators that fit the familiar profile of what we perceive terrorists to be.
But this… this act flies in the face of everything we thought we knew. And it leaves us un-certain about how to proceed.
If we’ve learned anything from 9/11, then we won’t be rushing headlong into a decade-long war against the wrong people — though certainly there is someone somewhere right now screaming that we should invade Russia as payback for the bombing, even though Russia is considered an enemy to Chechnya, where the brothers were born.
If we’ve learned anything from 9/11, then we won’t pass a slew of new laws granting dictatorial powers to our government while stripping away the rights of its citizens, though the noise coming from some quarters in Washington DC seems to endorse doing just that.
Adversity is a test of character, and in that sense we failed after 9/11, succumbing to bloodlust and fear that in some ways still permeates our society. But we are wiser now, more experienced in tragedy than we ever thought we’d be when this century was born more than a decade ago.
So far, this time around, we are passing the test. Suspects have been identified and apprehended — while there has been no conviction, it is indisputable that the Tsarnaev brothers assailed police with bombs and bullets on Thursday night. It looks like we’ve got our man, but we’re still running him through our existing justice system and not creating some new track specifically designed for this heinous crime. We’re not haphazardly naming bogeymen or looking for someone in our own government to blame for this — not yet, anyway.
There’s not much else to add, save to say that it’s important we get this one right. This is the way things are now: a violent world, with good people standing athwart the minority of bad ones. No law or action will make bad intentions disappear, but we can resolve to do the right thing when bad things happen.
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