Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Ivory Cubicle | Responding to Boston

In the wake of the Boston tragedy on Monday, our country is likely to be faced with a series of hard questions. Salon magazine released an article by liberal author David Sirota on Tuesday entitled “Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American,” suggesting that once the bomber is discovered, his ethnicity will drastically alter the way we discuss post-attack security measures in the United States.

Sifting Through the Rhetoric

He has a point. Sort of. Navigating the wake of a tragedy is a messy task, and conversation is likely to center on race, religion, ideology, and security. I share his cynicism of the American populace's ability to conduct that conversation well. I differ with Sirota, however, because I believe that racially driven dialogue itself is intrinsically dangerous, and his article only serves to exacerbate the problem. His confusion of race and religion throughout the article was singularly unhelpful, and his decision to drag them to the center of the discussion cannot serve to clarify the issue, but only heighten existing tensions.

As a matter of bringing the bomber to justice, the important questions concern whether or not the terrorist acted alone or as a part of a larger organization, what his motivations were, how his actions fit into ongoing terror investigations, and so forth. Race is not an issue, and unless he is a part of a particularly violent religious subgroup, neither is religion.

The bigger question, though, concerns what measures our nation should take in response to the attack. A crisis is always an opportunity for ideologues to advance their cause. The muddled issues that are involved present many opportunities for polarizing rhetoric, name-calling and blaming. It is also an opportunity for radical expansion of state power, and once power is given to a state, it is rare that citizens get it back.

My chief concern is that the American people will once more decide that it is worth handing over liberties for the sake of safety. Our founding fathers generally considered that a bad move, with Benjamin Franklin going so far as to say “they that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

It’s often hard to keep our feet grounded with all the heated rhetoric flying around though. It’s especially difficult in a nation that has already experienced considerable losses due to terrorism and has its soldiers deployed in a number of military operations over issues related to terrorism.

So in the aftermath of this crisis, let’s be sure not to be swayed by the rhetoric of fear, wrath or vengeance. Let’s pray for swift justice to be brought to the perpetrators of the attack, for God’s comfort and peace to rest on the city of Boston, and for wisdom in the decisions that now face our nation’s leaders.

Posted by Nick Barden

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