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Here's my hope for the Boston Marathon bombing: Maybe it can mark the end of the 9-11 Era. It feels so different from 9-11. Maybe it can exorcize the demons that have haunted us these last dozen years.

9-11 was a wound that refused to heal. Even the heroic stories that came out of 9-11 -- and there were many -- invariably got subsumed by the larger tragedy, like the first responders who charged up a burning tower and died when it collapsed. We could not identify with them or feel connected to their courage, because we lived. To have survived on a day when the real heroes died ... it felt almost shameful.

In addition to shame, the overwhelming emotions of 9-11 were depression and anger and fear. So it's understandable (though still not excusable) that America came out of 9-11 looking for somebody to blame, and wanting to mess them up as badly as we could. If we killed or maimed or tortured innocents in the process, so be it. Collateral damage. Our people had been innocent too.

9-11 was a monstrous act that we couldn't resolve in our hearts, so it turned us into monsters.

But we will tell the marathon bombing story as a challenge that Americans rose to. Not years later in another country, but as it was happening. Not by dying or killing, but by living and saving lives. This time, the heroic story subsumes the tragedy, not the other way around.

It started immediately, with the ordinary people, the runners and their friends and families, who raced into danger to help the wounded. But unlike the 9-11 first responders, they did not become martyrs or victims. They continue to walk among us like the typical Americans they are.

EMTs and police were already present at the finish line, and their performance will be a model for the rest of the world for years to come. Their story is of victory, not tragedy. It is a tribute to them that only three people died on the scene.

Everyone who made it into an ambulance is still alive almost a week later, because hundreds more nurses and doctors became heroes by saving lives, not by dying or by taking lives in revenge. Like the runners and the EMTs, they also melted back into the general population. Maybe you pass them on the highway or stand in line with them at the supermarket. Maybe you are one of them.

Our leaders expressed sorrow, promised justice, and asked for our cooperation. They got it. People sent in their photos, and studied photos taken by others. Asked to stay off the streets or keep to their homes, they did.

Police swarmed in from all over the area, and worked together under federal leadership without visible rancor. They did their jobs, protecting the public without dominating it. They did not create more victims by rounding up hundreds of innocents. A policeman died, a fourth victim, but no more civilians.

And they caught the bad guys. One died in a suburban shootout that miraculously killed no bystanders. The other was wounded, but managed to hide for most of  the next day. He was found by a citizen who did not turn vigilante and did not kill or get himself killed. He called the police, who captured the suspect and took him to a hospital.

That night, the convoy of police leaving Watertown became a spontaneous victory parade, and the citizens (who had been cooped up in their houses all day) streamed out onto the streets to cheer.

Unlike 9-11, it was over.

And this time, like the aid-giving marathoners, like the EMTs, like the hundreds of doctors and nurses and police, at least one perpetrator will live and not become a martyr larger than life. We may get what we never had for 9-11: an explanation and a motive. We may come to look on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as a troubled teen-ager, rather than a demon we see whenever we close our eyes and keep trying to kill by projecting him onto others.

Along the way, we may exorcize another demon who has haunted us too long: the Terrorist Superman, who desires nothing but mayhem and can be stopped by nothing but death. Who requires superhuman security measures and inhuman methods of interrogation. The monster who can only be fought by other monsters.

And that forms the essence of my hope: Maybe, after the events of this week, we don't have to be monsters any more.

Maybe we can just be people who help other people, workers who save lives by doing our jobs, citizens who respect our authorities and get respect in return. Maybe we can seek justice without losing our human compassion. Maybe we can stand for values higher than mere survival. Maybe we can once again be part of a nation that is admired rather than just feared.

9-11 will never be forgotten, but maybe it is time for it to be over. Maybe now it can join the Kennedy assassination and Pearl Harbor and the other great sorrowful events of our history. A scar, a memory, but not a wound.

So this is my post-marathon-bombing hope: That now we can stop being the frightened, angry, shamed survivors of 9-11 and go back to being Americans. It's been a long time.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (11+ / 0-)

    Read the Weekly Sift every Monday afternoon.

    by Pericles on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 06:42:21 AM PDT

  •  May it be so. But I gotta say (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I kind of doubt it. :)

    There are moments when the body is as numinous as words, days that are the good flesh continuing. -- Robert Hass

    by srkp23 on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 06:51:37 AM PDT

  •  The 9-11 ERA Was Necessary to Justify Going to War (3+ / 0-)

    against the Mid-East.

    I can't believe I'm not seeing anyone point out the immense contrast between this week with voices from all parts confidently proclaiming our defiance and our ability to take it and respond, compared to 9/11 when everyone audible was screaming fear and panic nonstop around the clock for years.

    Why? Because they needed to gin up support for 2 wars. Terrorism is the perfect propaganda tool for that because it poses no threat whatsoever to the nation state, but the people can be made to believe that they personally are threatened by it. That's crucial to motivate the American population which has not been invaded in 2 centuries and so does not feel personally threatened by many kinds of threats to the nation.

    I hope you're right, I hope that if nothing else, just the example of taking an attack and for once not panicking might help us find some ways to close down some of the madness we set up in response to 9/11.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 06:52:55 AM PDT

    •  Revisionist history (0+ / 0-)

      I don't know how old you were on 9/11, but 'audible screaming fear and panic nonstop' was NOT the response of the masses. Anger was the initial response followed by wanting justice and immediate calls to rebuild the towers in defiance of the attacks. Nobody was cowering in fear at all. We were MAD.

      The rest of your conspiracy nonsense isn't worth addressing. We were ATTACKED in an unconventional way. We responded by retaliating against nations known to sponsor and give refuge to those responsible. We have no idea what the response will be to the Boston bombings at this point because we don't have near enough details, but you are leaving out one very important difference between 9/11 and Boston. The marathon bombing as horrific as it was, killed 3 people and injured fewer than 200 more. 9/11 killed THOUSANDS in a matter of hours and resulted in billions in damage. Comparing the two events then saying we are somewhat more level headed this time is a direct reflection of those things.

  •  Funny, I had the same thought (0+ / 0-)

    this morning and I don't have many positive thoughts these days.  

    Light is seen through a small hole.

    by houyhnhnm on Sun Apr 21, 2013 at 07:24:05 AM PDT

  •  President Bush was largely responsible for tone (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I mostly agree with your analysis and share your hope. But I disagree when you say this:

    So it's understandable (though still not excusable) that America came out of 9-11 looking for somebody to blame, and wanting to mess them up as badly as we could.
    It seemed to me that the people in New York City, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania did not come out of 9/11 looking for a fight. They came out saddened and looking for an explanation. It was Bush, and the belligerent neo-cons behind him that provided a twisted explanation: irrational evil people did this for no good reason and must be destroyed. It was Bush that declared "the global War on Terror" which made no sense (how can you fight a war on fear?), but was perfect propaganda for the neo-cons to launch wars wherever they wanted. It was the neo-cons that convinced a third of Americans that Iraq was behind 9/11 and that killing Saddam Hussein was the solution. This made absolutely no sense since Hussein had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 and obviously had no weapons of mass destruction. Even attacking Afghanistan made little sense, as we saw: Osama bin Laden, the actual person behind 9/11 escaped into Pakistan where he was safe for a decade.

    The Obama administration has done a lot of stuff I disagree with, but in this case, I think they acted just right. They treated this as a horrendous crime and encouraged law enforcement to use appropriate means to solve that crime and bring the perpetrators to legal justice. That leadership has helped ensure that Americans think about this incident well and act well.

    With luck (and hard work), we will have more responsible leadership like this for the next decade.

    •  Obama acted just right? (0+ / 0-)

      Axelrod came out blaming "tax day" almost from the get go. The clear theory he tried to set in the minds of the masses was that some right wing wacko (tea party?) could well be behind the attacks. Absurd on it's face, but anything to distract from the obvious first inclination.

      Upon hearing of a bombing at a  widely attended event what rational thinking person in 2013 didn't immediately suspect the likely culprit would be found to be a Muslim "extremist"? The Obama admin, apparently. Turn the attention immediately to 'right wing anti-tax nuts'. Yeah, THAT was so much more likely than a Muslim 'extremist'...why, 95% of terror attacks in the last few decades have been carried out by right wing Tax-haters, right? Oh...wait...

      The Obama admin tried as hard as they could to deflect from the likely...that this was just another Islamic terror attack. The big O himself wouldn't even refer to it as a terrorist attack until after he was attacked in the media for refusing to state the obvious.

      Obama's response to this was an utter failure.

      Do tell, what was the unscheduled Obama meeting with the Saudi big wig concerning the Saudi national who was immediately a "person of interest" and reported to be guarded and in custody while hospitalized all about? He went from the initial suspect to being "cleared" after that meeting and without explanation.

      Yeah, 'just right', indeed.

  •  Ambiguous, awful, but definitely a good side (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sponson, Oh Mary Oh

    1. Bad for sure- killing and maiming innocent people is always wrong. The nonstop TV coverage might encourage lunatics to emulate the brothers.
    2. Good because
    a. The marathon will definitely continue with just as many runners next year. People can protect against  similar incidents by being hypervigilant and shouting if anybody sets down a bag or backpack anywhere along the course. Likewise, stadium sports will not be shut down- it's necessary to inspect all back packs, people should know that those bringing a backpack for whatever reason will be shunted into a different line and will lose time getting to their seats.
    b. There were few recriminations and blame your neighbor responses in the Boston area. Yes, the Internet has the same old nonsense about what do you expect with Obama, all Muslims are hateful, etc but that's not new and most of it came from outside Boston.
    c. Internet sites, including Reddit, were shown to be often wrong and mindless, as were the media- New York Post worst of all, but other papers  and TV networks also.
    3. ambiguous because
    a. The citywide lockdown  must be examined before the next terror episode. Tsarnaev’s escape would have been a tremendous blow to Boston area, not just to the authorities. His capture brought some closure and hope of justice, although we don't know what further information will emerge in the days ahead.
    b. I believe that this bombing was not a well-orchestrated attack like 9/11 or the Madrid bombings, but that being a Muslim outsider had something to do with it. In other words, there are more than two categories of mass violence, terrorist attacks like 9/11 & Madrid and "crazy killings" like the Aurora and Newtown shootings. It’s always outsiders or psychotics (Loughner & Holmes). We're quick to assume that white killers must be crazy and wouldn't hurt people if we had a few more mental health clinics. The brothers had no vehicle, no escape plan, they didn’t announce their bombing was to demand respect or something for Islam.
    Tamerlan's girlfriend (the media claimed that she's his wife, but  I doubt that) supposedly converted to Islam and wore a hijab (just how often?) but Dzhokhar drank and smoked dope with local friends, something that Mohammad Atta would never have done. He was not an Islamic crusader.
    c. America’s machismo sector will continue to demand that Dzhokhar be sent to Guantanamo. Probably the DOJ and Obama will have the courage to resist that, but we can expect machos like Lindsay Graham and Michele Bachmann to get much TV time denouncing our government for being soft on terrorism. Yes, Michele B is a sadomasochist.
    d. Miranda rights will be a subject of dispute. Their purpose is to warn the suspect that everything will be used against him and that he has a right to a lawyer. I'm sure that Dzhokhar knows the first part; whether he wants a lawyer or will wait until his family get one remains to be seen. He's on a ventilator and can't speak now. The only real question is whether he will get the death penalty, Miranda rights have little to do with that.
    e. To quote Stokely Carmichael, Violence is as American as Apple pie. James Calhoun and Andrew Jackson paved the path, which includes unlimited gun rights. There will be more episodes of mass violence, but few Muslim perpetrators. As long as the Israeli-Palestinian fire burns, we’ll have Western and Islamic sadomasochists. Maybe someday we’ll go back to the communitarianism of John Quincy Adams.

    •  Atta wouldn't do what? (0+ / 0-)
      but Dzhokhar drank and smoked dope with local friends, something that Mohammad Atta would never have done.
      Where have you been? Atta and others of the 9-11 terrorists were positively identified as drinking heavily and attending strip clubs in Vegas on multiple occasions.

      Just being a religious zealot does not mean that you automatically follow your religious edicts 100% of the time. In this case, this is a young man who has been in the American culture for a decade. Regardless of his religious beliefs, he was still a young man first and foremost.

      These boys spent a good amount of time in a Boston Mosque that has been investigated for instigating terror actions in the past. In addition, it has been reported that the elder of the boys traveled overseas, ostensibly to learn bomb making. Finally, and most incriminating, the Russian intelligence agency warned the FBI about the eldest being radicalized two years ago.

      To characterize these boys as some sort of lone wolfs defies all known information, with much more forthcoming, certainly.

    •  Technical note: it was H. Rap Brown who said (0+ / 0-)

      that 'Vio(Carmichael and Brown) up.

  •  Around 3,000 people were killed on 9/11 (0+ / 0-)

    3 were killed by the Boston bombs, and 1 policeman was later killed in a shootout.  I agree that seeing the Boston situation resolved with an arrest and the suspect alive, and eventually given a civilian trial, are good things (althought no the use of the so-called "public safety exception, skipping the Mirandizing of the surviving suspect).  However I'm afraid that with future attacks, the higher the loss of life, the lower the chances are for a civilized, non-warlike response.

  •  And, they honored life (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh

    The streets of Watertown congratulated all the various  police for working well under pressure and in confusion.   There was no dancing in the streets because someone had died.   A sign of true decency.  

  •  A truly great 'essay' (in the sense that Montaigne (0+ / 0-)

    and his heirs might have used the term) and one I cannot praise highly enough. One of the 2-3 best I've read on DKos and I consider myself a tough critic.

    Watching the lively debates here on DKos, I think we've pretty much managed to kick the 'Ari-People Better Watch What They Say-Fleischer' mojo back to the curb. That has got to be a good thing to come from this and a sign that 9-11 no longer makes us monsters and torturers.

    Again, my sincere congratulations on an excellent piece of writing.

  •  My mistake, it's John C Calhoun (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh

    As a civil war nut, I made a shameful mistake. Both Calhoun & Jackson were smart, assertive men who believed in manifest destiny, the right of white Americans to control all land to the Pacific including the Northern half of Mexico.

    One thing that I hate to think about is how much money has already been spent on all the law enforcement people, thousands of them, the lockdown etc.

  •  Oh look at the pretty bird over there! (0+ / 0-)

    Boston wasn't the only attack since 9/11. There have been over 20,000 attacks of various degrees of violence by extremists all over the world since then.  The attacks will only get worse even with the extreme vigilance and intrusive protocols spawned by 9/11. Thus the world will not be a better place, as much as the author, living in his field of flowers of ignorance and wishful thinking, would like it be. A reason to not let the memories of 9/11 fade would at least serve to minimize this inevitability and the violent effects of extremists, whoever they are and however they got to the place of their actions.

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