Let's get something out of the way. I'm not going to pretend for a moment that I have anything new or insightful to say about the who, what, and why of the Boston Marathon incident. But, I have to say something. As Anne Morrow Lindbergh said, "I have to write it all out, at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living."
So, what do I know of terror? What can I add to this story that has any sort of relevance? I honestly don't know. My wife said to me, "Why would someone attack a marathon? It's not like they're affecting the people who make the decisions." True, but that's not what they're after, is it. They didn't strike at the infrastructure of the industrial machine. They struck a blow at the heart and soul of what makes America a wonderful place to live; that sense that you can stand on a street corner and watch something as simple as a footrace and not fear for your life. When I use "they," I mean terrorists. But, don't get me wrong, I believe terrorists and terrorism are a means to an end, not some poor generalization of a particular group of people. Timothy McVeigh was just as much a terrorist as any of the men who perpetrated 9/11.
The Boston Marathon attack is so hard for those of us in the United States to grasp, but it should look very familiar if you simply compare it to the many attacks that occur in Middle Eastern countries. A marketplace, a place of worship, a police recruitment center. Someplace where people have gathered in a place they believe they are safe. The significant difference here? The attackers walked away from the bombs. Instead of strapping themselves to the devices and going out for their chosen god, they dropped and ran. To me, that says a lot about who these people are and who they aren't. I might be wrong, but this seems to me to be a politically motivated attack carried out by people who want to make a statement and instill fear, but aren't willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. That may seem to blur the line, but there's a very clear difference between someone who has no regard for life (including their own) and those who simply have no regard for the lives of others. As a sidenote, I find it interesting that Massachusetts has no death penalty, though capital crimes are prosecuted by the federal government, so that might be moot.
In the end, 3 people died (as of this writing on 4/18) so that someone could be heard. That someone made the decision that this was the only way to get their message across and be heard. Blunt, cowardly, and destructive violence perpetrated at a moment of least expectation against people whose only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. An 8-year-old boy, a 29-year-old young woman, and a grad student whose age was not disclosed. Three people and countless others who more than likely thought they were safe. Three people whose lives were cut short. Countless others who will never look at a crowd of people, or a man with a backpack, the same way ever again. This is how it begins. They've planted the seed of distrust and fear. Just like they've done before. Killing the seed is impossible. It's there; it's taken root. We can't fight it either. That just makes it spread; violence begets violence. We simply have to refuse to let it grow. Refuse to fuel the flame. At a time when it seems an impossibility, the best thing we can do is put this in the darkness of the past and move on.
Update: Just a note that, despite the post time being 9 AM, this was written on Thursday night, prior to the manhunt that occurred Thursday night and is currently in progress.