Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Boston's aftermath

Warning: This post has no intrinsic connection to running other than it was planted by the Boston Marathon tragedy and germinated on a series of runs last week. This is my attempt to sort through some current issues weighing on my mind; a father wondering what kind of world my daughter will grow up in. Its only an opinion and I could be wrong.

When news reached me of the bombings at Copley square, my reaction was probably similar to most: horror that these cowards would pick such a soft target. Dreams that were built by blood, sweat and tears coming true before our eyes...only to be knocked down in an instant by the ultimately inscrutable aims of a madman.

It makes me so angry: the needless suffering, the collective trauma, the fact that someone could feel so alone, so disconnected from their fellow men to justify these acts in their head. And you can't go to a movie, school or run a marathon without the possibility (however small) in the back of your mind that some psycho could be out there in the crowd. But what saddens me the most is our predictable response to events like this.

A crazy guy shoots up a school, movie theater, or bombs a crowd and we look to big brother for answers and to feel safe. Those with power feel compelled to do something, anything that could minimize the chances of it happening again, or at least create the illusion that it will never happen again. Legislators feel pressured to pass new laws. The executive branch looks at how to interpret existing laws to expand its power.

What did we witness last week? Police officers dressed and armed like the military, rolling by homes in tanks. An entire city in lock-down. Miranda rights withheld from the suspect. Some legislators even call for the suspect to be treated as an enemy combatant- essentially a conviction without trail of a U.S. citizen - and they are taken seriously. And the media (as a whole) was not much better. We had people falsely identified as suspects and rampant speculation that unfolded like a reality TV show. If this is in reaction to a relatively minor attack, what will be our response when (and it is a matter of when) we face another attack of the magnitude of 911 or the OKC bombings? I shutter to think of what will be justified in the name of public safety.

This is where I draw my line in the sand: I DON'T want my daughter to live in a country that is more secure from the bad guys if it means we must sacrifice some of her freedom to do so. I don't want it because this kind of "safety" is ultimately an illusion anyway. The more we swat the wasp, the more aggravated it will become.

Do we simply acquiesce to the terrorists? Hell no. I'm all for having calm, rational discussions about public safety and the constitution. But these discussions need to be separated from events that evoke such visceral responses. My wife and I won't make important family decisions in the midst of an argument; that would be stupid. Nor should we allow those in power to bend the rules in times of duress so we can feel safer. There's a process in place and we need to follow it. Sometimes that process moves slower than we would like but that prevents us from making decision we'd later regret. Remember how collective anger and confusion led our country on some dark paths in the wake of 911.

Maybe we could actually minimize the damage done by a future Adam Lanza or Tamerlan Tsarnaev  by tweaking some rules without a great cost to personal liberty, but I suspect that new soft targets and loopholes will be found by the people with the proper motivation to kill. If these things are an inevitable part of our future, how do we, both as a nation and as individuals, respond?

Fortunately, we have people like Adrianne Haslet-Davis to show us the way. She lost her foot in the bombing. Read her story here. She's been through hell and still has a long road ahead of her. I can't begin to imagine what it would be like to wake up and realize your leg is no longer there. What is amazing how she has chosen to respond. I can think of nothing that says "f__k you" to those murders more than her resolve to continue to dance and run the Boston marathon. In the face of evil, you stand your ground and resist the urge to respond in kind.

Adrianne for President

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