As I write this, the second suspect has been taken into custody. Obama says they will learn why. Not that any explanation can possibly make sense or be forgiven. If intolerance of murder and mayhem makes ME a barbarian, then someone has their sense of irony tangled up in the knot of blind justice.
The second face, so young, is beyond comprehension as a brutal bomber.
How far back do these young men’s grudges go? What sequence of personal, historical or national events can lead to a conclusion that killing more innocents is the way forward in another country, especially one that is so bountiful and generous as the United States?
None of the many gripes I have with the US change the fact that it is generally a good, open safe, comfortable place to live. Particularly when you consider most other places, such as the birthland of these young terrorists. Migrants go to countries like Australia and the US because there are opportunities, and, cliche though it may be, great freedom.
We join Americans today with relief and pride for the brilliant way in which the situation in Boston has been resolved.The involvement of the public to provide information and the use of electronic media also affirmed positive values.
Sadly, a policeman lost his life and another was wounded as the drama unfolded. We share their grief for the dead and wish the very best recovery for the survivors. That is a normal human response, the opposite end of the human spectrum from wilfully hurting strangers.
It is normal also to feel more strongly about people more similar to ourselves: we like marathons, the party atmosphere, the sense of shared interest and support. The Bostonians don’t come from a dark, lawless place.
Of all the achievements of modern democracies, widespread public safety (within limits) is surely one of the proudest.
Chechna and its neighbor Russia have a long, sad, violent history. The rule of law is weak, corruption and state violence is widespread, normalised.
Surely the only rational position for any individual or group or religion is to oppose violence in any and all forms. And for all leaders of any kind to reiterate that message loudly and endlessly.
If I were ever inclined to join a religion, total renunciation of violence would have to be a key tenet of their catechism. Surely that message is more important than telling people they have to spin around, bow down, eat prettily or wear silly hats. How unthinkingly I used to sing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ in Sunday school. I’m reading about the repression of the Counter-Reformation and its Inquisition in a book about Caravaggio – a violent man in a violent time. How do Buddhists reconcile their creed with their actions when they take up arms in Myanmar?
Next week we will have Anzac Day, a good time to reflect on this whole horrible week. It is also when I feel an annual flare of anger against those who drew so many young men into war and death. Who can look at the handsome portraits from the last century in the War Memorial without crying?
And does Australia make and export equipment for political killing? Shouldn’t we be backing away from such industries?
Carl von Clausewitz said war is politics by other means. Consider: could a different Iraq have unfolded, if instead of troops a fraction of the expense had gone to undermining Hussein’s regime and supporting civil society instead? Even cyber warfare would be better – the electronic equivalent of pamphlet blanketing perhaps?