“On 9/11 we forever disabused of the notion that attacks, like the one that rocked Boston yesterday ,only happen on the field of battle or in distant countries. With the passage of time, however, and the vigilant efforts of our military, intelligence and law enforcement professionals, I think it’s safe to say that for many, the complacency that prevailed prior to September 11th has actually returned. And so we are newly reminded that serious threats to our way of life remain. And today again we recommit ourselves to the fight against terrorism at home and abroad.”
For “many,” the complacency has returned? For who? What should we be doing differently? Should we be not having marathons? Should we be not allowing people to congregate in groups?
This isn’t another 9/11. It shouldn’t be, either. After 9/11 there were many politicians who seemed to make it their mission to make America feel more terrified. Everything became a threat. Iraq was a threat. Patriotism was defined by how publicly afraid you were, and how willing you were to do unspecified or specified somethings about that, and that is why we got things like the Patriot Act, and why it was called the Patriot Act—shredding certain inconvenient bits of constitutional law was the patriotic thing to do, and only someone siding with the enemy (the enemy being terrorism in all its forms, not just one nation or one group) would possibly object.
So I don’t know where this “complacency” is that McConnell sees, or what new thing McConnell proposes we do now, in order to protect ourselves from this latest “complacency.” Rep. Steve King is already out claiming that we need to scuttle immigration reform because there was “speculation” that the bomber might be a foreigner. I’m sure others will say fighting “complacency” means beefing up unrelated military capabilities, or monitoring more Americans even more of the time, or cameras on every street corner. Maybe “complacency” would be avoided if the crowd at the marathon was heavily armed, so that instead of merely tackling suspicious-looking foreign types true patriots could hold the minorities and the suspicious types and all the other true patriots at gunpoint—or worse—and let the police sort out the details later.
We’re “complacent” about a lot of things, in America. We’re complacent about a lot of the worst things, in fact, the things that kill thousands of us each year, the things that could wreck whole cities, or whole coastlines, or make whole generations poorer or sicker or worse off than they have to be. What happened in Boston will not change when we find out which of the world’s many two-bit sociopaths plotted it. If we choose to let it change us, on the other hand, we had best ensure it changes us for the better, not the worse.