As a runner–or at least, as a person who runs, who socializes with runners–The Boston Marathon is a legendary event; for many, it represents a lifetime achievement. Merely qualifying requires an extraordinary level of physical stamina. The qualifying times for my age bracket or younger demand that you have already competed in a sanctioned marathon and completed it, running a sub-7.5 minute pace. For the non-runners, that’s running a mile in under seven and a half minutes for 26.2 straight miles, and that’s just to get in. The leader board at the Boston Marathon clocks in with 26.2 miles at just over 5 minutes apiece. That’s virtually sprinting for over 2 hours. To even participate in the Boston Marathon, to line up at the starting line even in one of the trailing heats, is a triumph in and of itself for the majority of its participants; earning your Boston Qualifier (BQ) is worthy of bragging rights among runners, and is at the opposite end of the spectrum from an award for mere participation. It is impossible to scoff at or dismiss someone’s BQ, no matter how arrogant they are about it, because whatever else, it’s a real and tangible achievement that cannot be the result of anything but dedicated, sacrificial perseverance and hard work. Nobody strolls into the Boston Marathon, every runner in the race has a proven record of success, for even if you don’t win a marathon, finishing one in just over 3 hours can only be dismissed by people who have never run farther than 5 miles, if that much.
It is in the backdrop of this triumphant contest that someone, for reasons yet unknown, decided to plant and detonate a couple of bombs, killing 3 people as of this post, including an 8-year-old child. It is unfathomable to me why anyone would do such a thing, but then these things never make sense to me. I will follow the story, and await the results of the investigation, which I am confident will eventually yield both culprit and motive, which will then probably still make little sense to me.
In the meantime, it would behoove people to avoid being stupid. I know it is difficult in an emotionally charged and sensitive time to avoid being stupid, but better to withhold cavalier judgment now and comment upon the facts of the case, then be exposed as an idiot when the facts will out. Sensationalist fear mongers like Alex Jones and Pamela Geller can’t, of course, resist jumping into the fray–in fact, they have to. They traffic in terror and paranoia and thus, for them, responding in the first few hours is for them the sweet spot of opportunity: it’s early enough that nobody knows whether what they are saying is accurate or not, and by the time the facts come out it won’t matter if they were right or not. Their versions will be out there, everything else will be just the empty words of shills for the official story.
As of this post’s writing, this is not a terrorist attack. I shouldn’t need to point that out, but apparently I do. As of this post all we have is a bombing at a public event (and a. . . library?!?!? What the hell?). We do not have a motive, let alone a suspect. There are numerous possible explanations that do not in any way involve terrorism. There could have been a thrill seeker wanting to make a splash, or an individual lashing out at a sponsor, or at the Boston city government by embarrassing them; in the latter case, it could have been for a silly overdue book fine, hence the library. It could have been a distraction to draw police attention from another crime taking place across town; maybe it was a group of German thieves stealing a huge amount of gold from a bank on the other side of Boston while hoping not to be thwarted by a cynical, stubborn, veteran New York cop in town on vacation. At this point, we just don’t know. It was only terrorism if it was the work of an individual or group attempting to attack civilians in order to affect political change through violent coercion. And we can’t know it was that until we know a) who did it and b) why they did it. Anybody who invokes terrorism before we have determined either of those criteria is simply irresponsible, and not worthy of serious attention.
It may turn out that this was an act of terrorism, but even so that doesn’t automatically mean it was an act of foreign terrorists. Frankly, my armchair, utterly-unqualified-to-speculate guess is that a marathon and a library sound like another entry in the long and storied history of white male terrorism in this country, which is much more prevalent than the miniscule history of Muslim terrorism on American soil. To date, that consists of one bombing of the World Trade Center, one attempted bombing of the Los Angeles Airport (that didn’t even make it to California), and the events of September 11th, 2001.
Note that I am not, like the irresponsible people already trying to declare some rumor they heard or invented as fact, saying what did or didn’t happen today in Boston. I don’t know anything except that there were a couple of explosions that appear to have been bombs, and that 3 people died and dozens and dozens more were injured. All I am pointing out is that the need to find answers, to have explanations is normal–but unproductive when it leads us to jump to conclusions, launch false accusations, or spread misinformation. It’s not enough to recognize that the Alex Jones’ and Pamela Gellar’s of the world are reckless purveyors of self-serving agitprop catering to an audience of paranoid bed-wetters; we need to actively call it out, call for calm, and wait for the facts to come in.
To react without all the facts and information that we do not yet have is an act of cowardice, hatred, or self-destructive nihilism–or a combination of two or more. The last time we did that, we launched ourselves into two self-destructive and expensive wars. Let’s not make that mistake again.