The horror of this event ...

We watch these events unfold through a veil of tears. And over time, it only gets worse as we learn the identities of some of the victims, and learn of the horrors of this particular kind of bomb attack. We wonder if the bomber knew that few would die but many would lose their legs, or if families of living vibrant people, standing together to watch other family members finish their run for some worthy cause, would be turned into a collection of news stories about the dead and the maimed. We also wonder why this target was chosen. Timothy McVeigh attacked a Federal office building to strike a blow against the government. The day care center he blew up was incidental to his goal. Seung-Hui Cho, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold slaughtered people in their classrooms, acts that are impossible to fathom but that at least fit the larger pattern of school shootings. Did this attack happen because it is April, when these things (such as all those just mentioned) tend to happen? Because it was Tax Day? Because it was Patriots’ Day? Was this bomber against runners? Was Boston the target? Was this merely a convenient gathering of Americans to use as targets to make some international terrorist statement? Was this angry white males from the woods of Michigan or the mountains of Idaho striking out against a liberal enclave?

Was it just some kid who thought this would be an outrageoius thing to do?

The bomber used pressure cookers, two of them. Shrapnel was encased in the pressure cookers, I assume using some sort of packing material. Commonly available chemicals were used to make the low grade explosive. The police have hinted (this could be wrong) that they know something of the detonation device. The venue was full of people and many of them possessed cameras and thousands of photographs were taken. There are security cameras. This act was either done by someone who has come and gone and will never be found, or by someone who will be run to ground by the largest law enforcement agency in the world after figuring out the make and model of pressure cooker and where they have been sold, the kind of play-dough used to secure the bb’s and ball bearings, the isotopic signature of the shrapnel and the explosive materials, and the sources of any electronics used in the devices. They will reconstruct the bomber’s shopping list and then investigate every place that list could have been fulfilled. If the bomber is not already gone, after scanning photographs and videos not just of the scene but of every Walmart and Target store that sells pressure cookers and pay-dough and common household items, they will identify the bomber and run him to ground. And when I say “bomber” I mean “bomber or bombers and their associates.”

The horror of this event is shaped like an onion. At the center are the dead, then the maimed, then the walking wounded, then those shocked by the explosion, then those who saw it, or heard it, then the 9000 runners who were not done with the race and were turned back blocks away, and the countless friends and family members at the finish who must have lived anguished hours as they sought out their loved ones with cell phone service overloaded and any plans to use the already confused and chaotic Boston infrastructure to meet up after the race thwarted by the city center closing down, then the people who live in Boston. They, the “Bostonians” (and by that I mean the six million or so who live in the Greater Boston Metropolitan Area including the smallish but dense city itself) were attacked and they can feel that palpably even if they were not near the blast. And, of course, the Americans, and the rest of the world, the outer layers and peel of the onion.

Then there were the people who ran towards the blast, including the first responders. They deserve our accolades but I will not be shy to suggest this: After the attacks on 9/11 2001, first responders and the laws and systems of government they represent were put on too high and too permanent of a pedestal. Osama bin Laden made us fear everything and he made us grant authority too much power. Let’s caution ourselves to not do that this time. We can reward and respect, and meekly thank those who ran towards the blast and those who undeniably saved many lives with their quick action, without losing any more liberty.

Which kind of horror do we prefer this to turn out to be? A kid who thought it would be funny, that’s a horrible thought. A foreign agency, which once discovered could draw us into another endless war with tens of thousands of casualties. That would be horrible. Disaffected Americans full of hate and vitriol, our own people sufficiently deranged by the politics of hate we have allowed to grow, even nurtured, killing innocents instead of just screaming at the children trampling their lawn. That would be its own kind of horror. It would almost be better if we never found out. But of course, we need to find out.

There were people from Newtown Connecticut in the race and watching it, close enough to see the blasts. Many of the racers in this phase of the marathon were those running for causes of various kinds, not the lead racers, not the old guy who finishes last every year under police escort because the race is done but at least he finishes. We wonder if the bomber knew that the blasts would go off while people running to raise money to cure cancer or help the homeless or whatever were going by.

Thousands of people ran away from the blast. Some of them were injured. One man who ran away from the blast site was burned, but he was also brown, and from Saudi Arabia. He got his house searched and he got his interrogation. He will be his own kind of reluctant hero. We hope he holds no ill will, and we can guess that he holds less ill will than the average middle class privileged white male would hold under identical circumstances.

President Obama said there are “no Republicans or Democrats” only citizens. That was wishful thinking. We are already seeing the center and right questioning his use of word, or really, his lack of use of the word “terrorist.” But they should hold their tongues, the angry right. Because this could have been one of them. That would be horrible.

The truthers bring their own horrors to the table, claiming that this event was created by the government in order to get something, but knowing more details of what their argument is means sullying one’s ears, polluting one’s brain. We need to learn to turn away from the truthers the moment we see them coming. They are walking, living, breathing low level acts of terrorism of a kind.

So many Bostonians described the blasts as being “like a cannon going off.” If you are not from Boston, that may sound strange. Who has enough experience hearing cannons going off to know what that sounds like? But that’s Boston. Cannons are frequently fired in the First American City. There are a number of them left over from the old days, kept and maintained and used as very loud alarm clocks or fired off at patriotic events. Bostonians do in fact know what a cannon sounds like when it goes off.

Be good to your fellow humans, your fellow Americans, your friends from Boston, your friends who run marathons and your friends who hear cannons. It is only by chance that they were not ripped asunder by the person who did this thing. This sort of thing has not happened often in this country, and having happened this week does not mean that it will happen often. This means we are lucky, we are not Londoners during the Troubles or citizens of Sarajevo during the siege or Rwandans during the slaughters or Israelis or Palestinians at pretty much any time. But it also means that we are not well prepared to react properly, to adjust reasonably, to act in our own best interest. The attacks on September 11th proved that we are vulnerable to two things: Horrific violent attacks and the aftermath we cause for ourselves by bending to our own desire for authoritarianism, which seems to live inside ourselves right next to our desire for liberty and for just being left alone.

But also, go ahead and be angry.

Photo Credit: hahatango via Compfight cc

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My daughter, an ER nurse, volunteers every year for the Boston Marathon and was working in the medical tent, 200 feet from the blast. She treated many of the injured and said it was the most horrific scene she ever saw. She had to throw away her pants and sneakers when she eventually got home because they were blood soaked. We received a text that she was OK 10 minutes after the explosion, before we knew there was trouble, but we were tense for the next few hours, until she arrived home.

By NewEnglandBob (not verified) on 16 Apr 2013 #permalink

NEBob: Wow. Supportive thoughts for you and your daughter. We were all miles away, and (as far as I know) no one we're close to was there.

Re this: "Cannons are frequently fired in the First American City. There are a number of them left over from the old days"

It's literally a daily event.

We used to live in the North End. Cannon fires from Charlestown every morning at 8am , and every evening at sundown.

By Physicalist (not verified) on 16 Apr 2013 #permalink

For months I worked down by the Navy yard, either just inside the stone wall (before, and pursuant to, its move) or outside where all the new road stuff is now, across from the Raytheon museum. And most days I was there well before the first cannon blast and leaving just about the time of the later one.

I believe they also fired the cannon additional times when they turned Old Ironsides around, which was done about twice a year. Or maybe that was a musket salute, can't remember.

It is also thought the devices contained ordinary black powder used in muzzleloaders and cartrideg reloading that you can legally purchase at any Wal-Mart or sporting goods store. After 9/11 I never understood why gun powder was still readily available to the general public. Of course many people reload their own shells and still hunt with muzzle loaders. The gun powder sold at stores is explosvie, but not as violently explosive as some other materials like what was used on the Okalahoma City bombing. Besides, back in the 1990s buying fertilizer in bulk was not suspicious becuase farmers would purchase it by the ton, but gun power is usually only purchased by a small bottle at a time. I remember my dad used to reload his own shells. I never messed with it myself. I didn;t trust myself reloading shells. You only get to make one mistake.

Not sure who could have launched this attack. Many fingers have pointed at "right wing terrorists" or muslim terrorists, but NOT to left wing terrorists (like Bill Ayers who tried to blow up the Pentagon). Not sure why. Any political or religious group is capable of such attacks. Timothy McViegh was a right wing terrorist. A couple months ago we had a left wing pro socialist cop going on a terrorist killing spree in California and today we learn of another attack in California .. Bullet holes in power hubs.…

Several years ago a left wing eco terror groups was setting fire to Hummer delaerships in the name of the planet and in retaliation soomeone on the right destroyed hundreds of solar panels out in the CA desert. These things go on and on. We cannot expect this tio be the last attack. We can ramp up security all we want, but if evil wants to act, it will find a way.

By Kevin Sanders (not verified) on 16 Apr 2013 #permalink

Generally left wing attacks, such as the ones you mention, and they hardly ever happen any more, are at something. This attack was at everyone. This wasn't lefties.

Only fundamentalists and demented people do things like this. Whether they would be Christian home grown or Islamic home grown or foreign, extreme fundamentalism might be a good guess.

But so far it would still only be a guess.

I think at this point it's massively premature to say what political or religious affiliation the bomber(s) does or does not have, and it's a perpetuation of the same stupid nasty divisiveness that feeds so much of the violence to rule anyone out because of a perception that they just don't do that sort of thing. Let's not assume anything at this stage (although "demented" is probably more likely than anything else, quite honestly -- even of the ones with political motivations, they're usually also crazy).

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 17 Apr 2013 #permalink

I don't see anyone ruling anyone out. My comment in response to Kevin was simply to point out that his characterization of the Left as active in terrorist activity is absurd outside of ELF. His argument is the same bullshit argument the right has been giving every time a religious or right wing nutcase shoots a congresspeson or blows up a day care center or shoots an abortion doctor or sets a bomb off at the Olympics or blows up an abortion clinic and then also tries to blow up the first responders and on and on. Saying that the "left" is just a likely to have done this is the same exact thing as saying that any group of people ... the Sisters of Charity or the Lions or the Boyscouts did it ... a demented form of Bayesian reasoning, perhaps, assuming that since we don't know what "sort" of person or group did it that all sorts of people and groups are equally likely to have done so.

Now, if this had been a newly built ski resort, and I told you that it would be premature to suggest that a group like ELF might be involved, what would you say to that? See what I mean?

It sounds like "significant progress" is being made and possible perps are being "narrowed down" as we speak, by the way. Reports that there was an arrest are being denied vigorously.


A quote often attributed to Plato: "A wise man speaks when he has something to say, a fool when he has to say something."

Which one are you?

By Mal Adapted (not verified) on 17 Apr 2013 #permalink

Greg you are partially correct. There are few left wing groups out there that would do something like this although Bill Ayers tried to blow up the pentagon a few decades ago.

Also a reminder that the shooter who shot Gabby Giffords was a left wing wack job and the cop who went on a California killimng spree a few weeks ago was an adament left wing socialist.

Rememeber the Discovery Channel buidling attack a few years ago? Left wing wack jobs committing crimes in the name of global warming.

Greg this may indeed be a right wing attack. And as far as your abortion bombing comments go I do not agree with bombing those clinics, but you can rest assured that those baby killer doctors will answer for their crimes when they face God on Judgement day. Killing babies is one of the worst forms of international terrorism around. So far abortion is responsible for over 55 million AMERICAN babies' deaths.

Yes ELF is a terror group and why the CIA hasn't droned them out of existence is beyond me.

This may turn out to be a right wing man acting alone for who knows what reason, but if it does indeed turn out to be some left wing wacko envrionazi global warming addict, do you actually think the media will repot it? I am seriously contemplating placing bets on just how the media will portray the criminal one he is caught for sure. My assumtion is that if he is a right winger that has done this in protest of gun control or taxes, the media will blast it 24/7 for months, but if it turns out to be some lefty envrionut who did it in the name of the environment, the media won't even mention it. Wanna place a bet with me? The media is biased and crooked. Thing is, most of the journalists are lefties, so naturally they would be biased to protect their own.

If you want a conspiracy theory version here is a ncie one -

Two days before the Senate gun control vote - The government planeted the bombs in hopes of putting sympathy into the hearts of the senators into voting it in or to scare citizens into demanding those senators do more for gun control. Since that vote did fail today, I did see the president speak. He was pretty pissed. You could see the rage in his eyes and hear it in his voice. He was livid inside. He eerily remionds me of the emperor in Star Wars. Both came to power the same way. Both demand more emergency powers from the senate. Both want more control over the people. Scary.

By Kevin Sanders (not verified) on 17 Apr 2013 #permalink

Shit Kevin, just when I think I've heard the absolute dumbest fucking comments possible you go above and beyond. You seem to be seriously at odds with reality.

What happened in Boston is dreadful. But people have short memories. For years Northern Ireland and parts of England were made a complete mess by the IRA, with lots of deaths and horror stores. They even nearly blew up the British prime minister. The majority of the funds are said to have come from Irish sympathizers in the Boston area.
Terrorism never helps, it always hurts, and never works to a good end. It would be good if some of those who gave money to the IRA thought about this, with this horrific event, but somehow I don't think that is going to happen.

As I predicted ...

The perpetrators of the Boston bombing have not yet been captured, but the man who sent poison letters to obama and numerous senators and congresman who was captured last was is indeed a DEMOCRAT. As I predicted, ABC, CBS, and NBC never mentioned it. If he had been republican, they would have mentioned it numerous times by now. Just saying how crooked news reporting has become.…

By Kevin Sanders (not verified) on 18 Apr 2013 #permalink

No, your source does not say that, it says something different, and it provides no evidence.

Anyway, he was an Elvis Impersonator who tried to kill the Democrat we elected as the President of the United States. He is disqualified as a "Democrat."

Now, if you want to say that Elvis Impersonators are terroristic in some ways, you might have a case.

So we hear this morning one suspect is dead, the other still on the run, after a violent encounter. Apparently they killed an MIT campus officer.
They are from Chechnya, if initial reports are reliable. No word on whether they are garden variety killers or trying to make some larger statement meaningful only to them.

he perpetrators of the Boston bombing have not yet been captured, but the man who sent poison letters to obama and numerous senators and congresman who was captured last was is indeed a DEMOCRAT. As I predicted, ABC, CBS, and NBC never mentioned it. If he had been republican, they would have mentioned it numerous times by now. Just saying how crooked news reporting has become.

Infowars? Really, that's your "source" (even though it doesn't support your assertion)? What a maroon.

There is no "logic" to a Chechen based attack on the US. These kids, at least one of them, are pretty much Americans. I'm sticking with the deranged teenager hypothesis though certainly they may have adopted some religious based themes to justify their activities.

face it greg. You were wrong. It was not American right wing gun nuts angry at the government or some tea party member. Looks like I was right and MSNBC and the libs were wrong. Another muslim terrorist attack.

By Kevin Sanders (not verified) on 19 Apr 2013 #permalink

@ dean

I do not always cite infowars, but some of their stuff makes sense these days. However, I would trust Alex Jones and Steve Quayle long before I would trust that bigmouth communist chris mattews.

By Kevin Sanders (not verified) on 19 Apr 2013 #permalink

I'm sure you would trust alex jones - he's just as stupid and dishonest as you are.

Kevin Sanders: "Since that vote did fail today, I did see the president speak. He was pretty pissed. You could see the rage in his eyes and hear it in his voice. He was livid inside. He eerily reminds me of the emperor in Star Wars. Both came to power the same way. Both demand more emergency powers from the senate. Both want more control over the people. Scary."

The farce is strong with this one.

By Chris Winter (not verified) on 20 Apr 2013 #permalink

@ dean

I am not stupid or dishonest. I do not go around telling people of secret fairies sprinkling carbon over the earth to warm it nor am I out to confiscate other people's money. Chris matthews is a joke just like the people who watch him.

By Kevin Sanders (not verified) on 24 Apr 2013 #permalink

Kevin, you are as dishonest as the day is long, and apparently not very bright. did you notice your man Alex Jones is still lying about the folks in the Boston bombing?

I suspect the reason you don't care for Mathews is that he can actually speak in complete sentences, and uses words with more than two syllables, two things that result in your not being able to understand what he's saying. That is not to say he should be automatically agreed with, but calling him names because you don't understand him seems to be an accurate description of your behavior.