Once again it happens with sickening suddenness -- a jolting shock that alters and cruelly mocks our assumption of “normalcy.”
On a weekend when the news cycle focused on North Korea’s rising threat, the struggle to enact gun control and a dumb written comment about the -murdered-by-the-Nazis Anne Frank by self-absorbed teen singer Justin Bieber, the venerable Boston Marathon run ended in horrific bomb blasts. The result: at least three dead (including 8-year-old Martin Richard who was greeting his dad at the finish line), at least 176 injured -- and at least 25 missing one or more legs. With two flashes, the first successful terrorist attack on a U.S. City since Sept. 11, 2001 shoved the issues of national security and life’s uncertainty to the forefront.
Immediately after the bombing, President Barack Obama made a brief statement that included this: “I’ve updated leaders of Congress in both parties, and we reaffirmed that on days like this there are no Republicans or Democrats -- we are Americans, united in concern for our fellow citizens.”
It soon became clear that some on the left immediately began speculating that it was right-wing terrorism. Some on the right suggested it was Muslim terrorists. And -- proving that not all nuts are on the shelves at Whole Foods -- right-winger Alex Jones and left-winger Cynthia McKinney both hinted that somehow the government was involved. Many Americans talk about a war on obesity. How about a war on stupidity?
The fact is this: just as America has hurtled into the 21st century with all of the technological, cultural and economic changes that this kind of progress entails, the American lifestyle starting in the 1950s began to take a hit with mass killings and terrorist attacks and attempts. As a result, places where Americans can feel totally safe have dwindled. Rule out skyscrapers, walking on a university campus, being in a university hall, in high school, in elementary school, watching a movie, going to a fast-food restaurant -- and more.
It was inevitable that sooner or later there would be an attack on some big sporting event and for years writers have speculated on attacks at other venues, such as malls. Our sense of vulnerability increases as the venues of safe havens decreases -- even though the odds are low of being a victim of a terrorist attack.
In 2012, Robert Bailey of Reason estimated the odds of an American dying in a terrorist attack were 1 in 1.7 million. Other estimates from websites over the years varied -- one had it one in 9.3 million worldwide. Others higher.
But odds matter little to the dead, injured and grieving families of terrorism’s and murder’s victims. Terror is just that: a murder-political technique designed to ostentatiously end in a body count that will terrorize, influence, bully or demoralize a populace and/or government. After a while there is a sameness where the murderers all seem the same and seemingly spawn each other. Right terrorism seeks the same dead body message as left terrorism and even incidents start to look the same.
The Daily Beast says former FBI counterterrorism investigator Mark Rossini saw some “disquieting” similarities between the Boston bombing and the March 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed 191, injured 1,800 and turned out to be the handiwork of a terrorist cell inspired by Al Qaeda.
In these kinds of horrific events, the names and political positions of the murderous groups may change. Because evil doesn’t only come in different forms. It copies and clones itself.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at email@example.com