Perplexity and horror


A local resident said: “I’m glad I live in Toledo, because the rest of the world has just gone crazy.” But the world gets smaller by the day. And senseless violence happens here too.

In Boston this week, violence was carefully planned, for Patriots’ Day, at a beloved, joyous, and deeply American event. We assume that the authorities know more than we do, and that they will find the person or persons who killed three people and injured more than 170 others in the Boston Marathon bombings.

Why does someone do something like this? What sort of world are we living in? Why should a child die, and parents lose a child, for some fanaticism — right, left, or merely delusional? Most of us can’t get past these questions. On a human level, it is impossible to fathom.

In terms of police work and counterterrorism, this is the sobering truth: Not every nut or fanatic group can be stopped. Our local police forces and national intelligence apparatus have done an amazing job of keeping the nation safe over the past dozen years. They have prevented hundreds of similar assaults since 9/11. But there is no way to foresee every possibility or to forestall every possible attack.

Is it too soon, is it precise, to call the outrage in Boston terrorism? Setting off bombs and leaving people without limbs is terrorism. A small man with a small weapon can hurt a lot of people.

The gun violence that has now invaded every part of our lives, including our children’s schools, is terrorism. A healthy and sane society looks for every possible way to prevent such acts. Otherwise, we live in fear as a people.

Whether the Boston bombings were political terrorism is yet to be known. We need to keep our heads and not call for someone’s scalp, or assume we know who did this and why.

We hope the police, the FBI, and the national security apparatus will do the same: Work efficiently but carefully, and do not rush to judgment. After the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, under similar circumstances, police were sure they had the right guy when they had the wrong guy.

Injustice is not the antidote to terror. Outrage, compassion, and prayer are. Hug your kids tonight. Affirm all that is human in every small way that you can. Pray, in whatever way is your way, for the victims and their families.