The Boston Marathon bombing was not an incomprehensible one-time horror, but a sign of our times rich in lessons for those with sense enough to learn them.
Lesson One: Evil Exists
FOX’s aging blonde bombshell Gretchen Carlson, reaching for that anguished existential aporia that the GOP associates with compassion and sensitivity, lamented one morning this past week that she didn’t know how to explain the Marathon Massacre to her little daughter. For good measure, she tossed the Sandy Hook atrocity (what media mouths call a “tragedy” in their dense haze) into her growing file of Things We Can’t Explain to Our Kids (and Shouldn’t Have To).
I’ve been rereading The Captain’s Daughter lately, by Alexander Pushkin. It occurs to me that children might have asked of their parents during Pugachev’s Rebellion, “Mommy, why does that old Bashkir have his ears and nose cut off, and why is there just a little stump instead of a tongue when he opens his mouth? Mommy, why did those Cossacks throw the sergeant’s head over the palisade? Mommy, why did the Cossacks hang all the officers and club the Commandant’s wife to death after coming through the gate? Mommy, why are they ripping your clothes off, beating you, and jumping on you one after another?”
Gretchen, if you don’t know what to tell your daughter as she matures amid the moral squalor and depravity of human beings, you’d better find some answers fast. Evil didn’t arrive yesterday, and it’s not going away tomorrow, even though there’s rather less of certain evils today than three hundred years ago. If I may ask a question of you… why do you appear to believe that there’s something unique and outrageous about the necessity you face of dealing with this problem? Why do you think that your daughter has a right to spend the rest of her life in the artificial Shangri-La which your affluence has shakily raised around her?
Lesson Two: Damage Control by Vilifying the Right
We should all be beginning to understand by now (or those of us who aren’t fanatical ideologues or otherwise intellectually impaired) that the Obama Administration defines as a problem only that which creates bad press for it. David Axelrod lost no time insinuating that the Boston Marathon horror was the handiwork of Tea Party terrorists protesting tax day. His boss, meanwhile, avoided every possible occasion to call the deed terrorism, right up until his very evasion of the “t” word became news. At last, prodded and galled, Obama declared any privately detonated bomb a terrorist act, by definition (cf. Charles Krauthammer’s column for the Kennebec Journal, 4/21/2013). His rear-guard non-correction almost seemed to say, “Well, of course it was terrorism! How far do I have to dumb down to reach the rest of you?”
(One of many ironies here is that Obama’s “self-evident” defense is ridiculous. Safe-crackers who employ a bomb to get at loot, for instance, are not committing an act of terrorism.)
Other Democrats—notably Steny Hoyer—announced that Republican intransigence leading to The Sequester should be blamed for last Monday’s grim events (see thepolitico.com 4/16/2013). Boston would have been crawling with canine cops and men in black if only we hadn’t slowed the growth of our debt by an infinitesimal amount.
Meanwhile, the one respect in which the Administration demonstrated initiative and alacrity was in the attempted deportation of a shady Saudi national. Once this became a public-relations land mine, Janet Napoletano was sent to the front line armed with indignant denials that she or her boss had anything to do with the subterfuge. And they don’t know how Jay-Z got into Cuba, either.
If Timothy McVeigh were doing twenty-five-to-life like, say, a Weatherman who had killed a security guard, the Left would be sending him a Christmas card every year. He remains their single and oh-so-cherished example of a Right Wing terrorist, or something close to it (though those bullet-heads in the Navy dishonorably discharged him from their savage ranks). Even McVeigh, however, targeted a government building and ended up annihilating a day-care facility only through klutzy stupidity. A Tax-Day Terrorist would have gone for a federal building, new and brilliant in imperial arrogance—not for any edifice or event of reverend provenance to the Minuteman crowd. How much weed do you have to smoke to come up with these Tea Party conspiracy-scenarios?
Lesson Three: An Armed Populace Is a Safer Populace
MIT campus security guard Sean Collier was murdered in his squad car on Thursday night. There ensued a manhunt during which much of the metropolis of Boston was on lockdown. If Dzhokhar Tsarnaev shattered the bay window of your den, you were to barricade yourself and your family in the bathroom (one supposes) while dialing 911. Of course, bathroom doors are constructed more or less like the ones at Fort Knox.
Collier’s “tragic death” is especially instructive. Even when we have armed guards at educational institutions, they are no guarantee against the predations of a homicidal maniac. Indeed, any person in uniform is wearing a target on his back, and any such person who does regular rounds or drives a distinctly marked vehicle is a sitting duck.
If Dirty Harry had been in plain clothes at the Marathon, the ignition of the bombs could probably still not have been prevented. The greater the number of our mature, level-headed citizens who have permits to carry concealed weapons, however, the less likely such situations are to escalate. What if the brother-terrorists had been wearing suicide vests and had attempted to run into crowds of survivors as a finishing touch to their hellish day’s work? Who would have brought them down if all the uniformed officers were dutifully sprinting back to the scene of the original explosion?
Lesson Four: There’s More Than One Way to Skin a Cat
Pursuant to Lesson Three, need we say further that semi-automatic assault weapons with large magazines and/or clips (whatever all that means to you) are unnecessary to commit mass-murder? Some nails and a few compounds under your kitchen sink or in the garage will do the trick. In fact, far superior to either method is computer proficiency. While our legislators are at the pressing business of banning guns, why not add computers to the list?
In its infinitely false wisdom, our age has chosen to make high-tech society centripetal rather than centrifugal, though the latter course would have been as feasible (if not as flattering to the power-hungry) as the former. Clean water, for instance, might have been gathered, processed, and stored by each home from nature’s bounty of rains… but instead, we all must draw upon the polluted groundwater system that Big Brother has benignly detoxified for us at huge treatment plants. An evil hacker could send poison dribbling from our taps—from hundreds of thousands of taps—just by buggering up the proportions of “cleansing” chemicals. (Fluoride, for example—the stuff in your toothpaste—can be lethal in too great a dose.)
We have scarcely scratched the surface of the twenty-first century’s potential horrors… and our “leaders” have dedicated themselves to an initiative just slightly more sophisticated than ensuring that the knives in kitchen drawers aren’t too sharp.
Lesson Five: Rethink Traditions
There follows an obligation for all thoughtful, careful people to reevaluate their routine activities. What was once safe and fun may be deadly in the future. The coincidental explosion of the fertilizer plant in West, Texas (located in what we call central Texas down here), both reiterates Lesson Four and illustrates this point. The plant’s explosion was indeed an accident (and hence a true tragedy, by the way); yet how many such targets where hundreds or thousands of people live and work are just waiting for a lit match to fall? To be sure, industrial accidents are far less frequent today than a century ago… but the matches I have in made will not be accidentally lit. We must begin seeing our familiar surroundings as a diabolical mind may see them.
Perhaps we should forego that yearly family reunion at Disneyworld during peak season, when airborne or microbial attacks would be at least as effective as bombs in claiming victims. Perhaps we should stay at home more—although, once again, the centripety which our social engineers have designed constantly encourages us to create tempting targets. As individuals, however, we can resist the unwholesome magnetism of rock concerts and Million Man Marches. I would rather have to explain to my daughter why a suitcase bomb went off at the Lincoln Memorial than not have a daughter alive to hear the explanation.
One of my fears on this score is that the Gretchen Carlsons of the world—naïve, conflict-averse, pampered, and complacently affluent—may prefer a magnification to the tenth power of government surveillance in our lives. In words dictated earlier this month to a Florida fourth-grader by his teacher, “I am willing to give up some of my constitutional rights in order to be safer or more secure” (reported by theblaze.com 4/4/2013). We know that the terrorist’s bomb ends in death and mutilation; we do not know where the “favors” of Big Brother may end. If we choose his “protection”, will our children even have sons and daughters to whom they must explain evil and death? MSNBC’s progressivist hack Melissa Harris-Perry has also told us this month that our children don’t really belong to us, but to the State (see theblaze.com 4/13/2012). How long before the State is producing whatever children it needs on the assembly line of Huxley’s Brave New World?
Lesson Six: The Fetal Posture Characterizes Death As Well As Birth
The charred human remains exhumed from Pompeii and the mummified sacrificial victims raised from northwestern European peat bogs often remind one of babies in the womb. Being doubled over and hunkered down is natural in a fetus; but when you assume the same position in life under pressure, your day is likely to end before the sun sets. We Americans are terribly spoiled. Maybe we don’t need to run marathons any more. Maybe we should not drop our toddlers off daily at quite such a tender age in order to pursue our careers unfettered. Maybe we should get a little scared, and a little mad—like adults who recognize that the river harbors crocodiles—rather than squealing indignantly like royal princes and princesses that we have not been adequately protected. Why is there still, in 2013, not a red button at the reception desk of every school that sounds an instant loud alarm campus-wide upon an armed intruder’s appearance? Why do we think we have the right to exist in a state where such things never happen?
This lesson comes very close to closing the circle with Lesson One—but it is also distinct. Christians are all obliged to profess that they acknowledge the reality of evil, yet too many of them—of us—believe that a constant turning of the cheek is the only Christian response. I’m sure that Ms. Carlson has a good heart and loves God sincerely. Christ had to be crucified to fulfill his mission, so he stayed Peter’s sword. This is not by any means, however, equivalent to telling us that we should huddle around our children in the face of danger and program them to abhor blades and bullets until, finally, none of them ever grows up imagining such a thing. Somebody, in our eternally perverse species, will always crystallize evil into lethal shapes. As the brave man doesn’t run from death with his eyes covered, so the good man doesn’t grow squeamish at the idea of forcible resistance in defense of innocence. The run-and-hide approach is indeed, it seems to me, a worship of life in the body rather than a commitment to life in the spirit.
Let’s stop pretending that guns will go away if we all scream, “Bad! Bad!” whenever we see one, and that terrorists will vanish if we try really hard to understand what they want.