April 28, 2013
“While we can and will figure out small ways to be safer, we have to come to terms with the reality that we’ll never be safe, not with unrestricted travel through cyberspace. Not with the Second Amendment. Not with the privacy we expect. Not with the liberty we demand.”
Ah yes, the appeal of impotence, political and otherwise. Frank Bruni, in what is a barely disguised flag-waving column, tells us that the lesson from Boston is that we are, for the most part, impotent. The bombers will come, people will die, and, well, that’s the way it is. And, by implication, the way it must be.
This is the most disturbing part of Bruni’s argument: The way things are is the way things must be. We have no alternatives. The world we live in is not of our creating but, rather, has come to be, well, spontaneously, growing out of those seeds we take to be either irreplaceable or inevitable. So these acts of violence tell us nothing, absolutely nothing about the world we live in, the world we have chosen to create. They are aberrations pure and simple. Let’s just keep on running!
Now, Bruni’s viewpoint requires that we ignore, blind ourselves to any alternatives, ignore that the way we live is particular, peculiar and controversial. Some say, we have, as a society, armed ourselves to the teeth. Why? Because we have decided that we should deploy troops and ships around the world to “police” it, believing as we do that the world is “policeable.” We make war here and there, we kill people here and there, the innocent and the guilty, and then wonder when others, also “policing” as it were, kill people here.
I am not wedded to the above characterization of our society nor do I present it as a “cause” of the Boston bombing. I only make it to illustrate that we have made choices about we the way we are in the world and about how our world is and should be. These choices, like all choices, have consequences and if we find ourselves living in a world of “mad” bombers or presidents who declare they can kill anyone they want, anytime they want, anywhere they want, then it is obligatory to ask: How did our choices help create our situation?
And this obligation exists whether it deters any act of violence or not. If, like Bruni however, we merely focus on the superficial question, “What can we do to prevent such bombings?” we condemn ourselves to impotence and to keep living as we are now with the same results.