In Thomas Friedman’s op ed on the Boston marathon massacre (Bring On the Next Marathon, NYT 4/17), the boldface caption insists “We’re just not afraid anymore.” Perhaps this is true for a traveling journalist who doesn’t use the subway daily or who isn’t forced to spend all his days in the 9/11 city of New York, but for most thinking people who work and live here, there is a great deal to fear. We live in a porous society where criminals roam free yet politicians complain about the “discriminatory” stop and frisk policies of the police, even though they have successfully reduced crime precisely in the neighborhoods that most affect the complaining minorities and their liberal champions. If you ride the subways, you know how many passengers wear enormous back-packs, large enough to conceal an arsenal of weapons. These are allowed to be carried into movie theaters, playgrounds, parks, sports arenas, shopping centers, department stores and restaurants with no security checks whatsoever. On the national front, immigration policies are more concerned with politically correct equality than with the reality of which groups are fomenting most of the terror around the world today. Our northern and southern borders are infiltrated daily by undocumented people slipping in beyond the government’s surveillance or control.
Despite the numerous declarations of Islamist hatred of the U.S. and the exhortation to seek revenge through jihad, despite the number of successful and thwarted incidents of Muslim violence in our own country since 9/11, we continue to allow a questionable population of students and young adults to enter our country legally, without the means to keep tabs on what they are doing once they are here. We do little to stem the successful, extremist Muslim infiltration of our prison system, preying on an already violent population with the dangerous filter of seeing the expression of this violence as religiously ordained. Though no one has yet claimed responsibility for the Boston bombings, the modus operandi is exactly the same as many Islamist terrorist groups, from the type of bomb to the location of its detonation. If you or your family were victimized by this grotesque apparatus stuffed with nails to maximize its lethal thrust, why shouldn’t you be afraid, as well as agonizingly heartbroken? If you were a bystander who came withinl a hair’s breadth of being a victim, why shouldn’t you question what our government can do to actually protect us from another such incident?
Mr. Friedman wants us to start training for the next marathon as if this display of bravado will be a talisman against a recurrence or proof to the terrorists that they have failed to intimidate us. It takes courage to stand up to an unarmed bully - it takes denial to believe that an unarmed civilian is well matched against a bomber, a sniper or an arsonist. It’s human nature to resume complacency once a crisis has passed and terrorists and criminals can bank on this. It’s also just a fact of life that few of us have choices about entering subways and all the other aforementioned unsecured public spaces. But it’s insulting and arrogant to lecture people about not being afraid when they have been wounded and scarred physically and emotionally, when they have lost their loved ones, when they have had their legs blown off when they have realized that the cost of living in our free society can be horrifying beyond belief. For those of us who resume our normal life rhythms by necessity and habit, there should be no congratulations for doing something brave or noteworthy. Most of us have little choice but to continue doing what we have routinely done but this does not make us patriotic or heroic. Those who are fearful of engaging in optional activities that cannot be secured should not feel guilty for facing a harsh reality - we live in dangerous times without certain protection. Cloaking this in platitudes of inflated grandeur only serves to add confusion to our very normal reactions of fury, fear and grief - they all are eminently justified.
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