Tragedy in Boston

I lived in Boston for eight years from 1973 to 1981.  It is horrifying to see what happened, even more so on streets I regularly walked, and on a day that Bostonians have always taken as a day of celebration and pride.

Until we know more about the composition of the explosives and have evidence pointing to a clear person or group, it is best not to jump to conclusions.  Both the Oklahoma City Bombing and the Norway youth massacre were first blamed on Islamic terrorists, only to be found to be the work of native extremists.

So let us applaud the resilience of Americans, pray for the victims and their families, and trust that the Homeland Security professionals — who have trained for just such a situation — can identify and locate the perpetrator.

Meanwhile, just as with traffic accidents and gun violence, we need to make sure we do not turn all of our lives upside down in reacting to this tragedy.  Yes, we want to do everything we can to stop terrorism — but that should not mean making our daily lives even more like living under 24-7 surveillance and suspicion.   After all, tens of thousands of lives are lost in traffic accidents each year, mostly to drunk drivers — yet we have not banned alcohol (although putting breathalyzers into steering wheels and locking the ignition if the driver’s breath shows he or she has been on a binge is not a bad idea).  We know that disordered people with guns can kill dozens of children, as we just saw in Connecticut.  Yet no one in America is going to ban all households from having guns (although strict background checks and licensing laws again seem like good ideas).

The same is true with terrorism.  We need to figure out the best ways to protect ourselves within reason, without destroying the freedoms that give our life meaning.

Boston, my thoughts are with you.



About jackgoldstone

Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University
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