Boston unbowed in the face of terror

Boston Bombings
by D.C. Innes
Posted on Monday, April 22, 2013, at 1:23 pm

“Being losers, hatred to those who were able to settle themselves.” This is the only reason the uncle of the two Boston Marathon bomber suspects, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, could imagine for the murderous plot for which his nephews stand accused.

But it was more than that. The elder brother, Tamerlan, 26, reportedly had become radicalized by Muslim jihadists and trained overseas. So this random slaughter appears to have been an act of political terrorism, not just indiscriminately directed personal anger. But as terrorism goes, it was entirely unsuccessful.

Terrorism aims at three things: mass killing, paralyzing a population with fear (i.e., terror), and softening a people to the terrorist group’s demands. But the Patriots’ Day bombers failed on all three counts.

The death toll was surprisingly low. Two bombs set off in a crowd at the Boston Marathon near the finish line at the stage in the race when people were crowding to see family and friends complete 26.2 miles should have killed dozens. Instead, these monsters took only three lives and wounded and maimed more than 170. The three slain were two women, one of them an international student, and an 8-year-old boy. To us, those lives are as precious as anyone’s. But to a jihadist attempting to strike a deadly, manly man blow against America, two women and a boy, one of them not even American, adds shame to failure.

As for terror, it was not a scattering fear but bravery and cohesion that marked the bloody scene. People did not trample one another in a panicked effort to escape, but instead raced toward the scene of the blast—runners, spectators, and emergency workers alike—to help the injured and the shocked. And they did this despite the chance another blast could take them, too. When the police put the city in lockdown, the residents complied, but of orderly cooperation, not slavish fear. Fifteen minutes after the ban was lifted, a Watertown, Mass., resident checked his backyard and found a bloody man in his boat and called police. No fear.

And far from weakening people’s resolve against seemingly tireless jihad, Bostonians have been defiant. This is Boston, the cradle of the American Revolution. The spirit of ’76 is apparently still alive. Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz announced to a spirited crowd at Fenway Park Saturday, “[N]obody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.” The fans concurred.

This demonstrates the importance of good citizen character in maintaining a people’s liberty. These people love their city, they love their country, and they’ll stand by one another in a fight. But that same spirit has a charitable face when turned inward. The reflexive and immediate choice to help one another comes from the Christian faith of some and the lingering effects of Christian culture in others. It’s just what you do in that situation. Consider that these are people who run their wheelchair bound loved ones in the race—the least among us—while others cheer them for doing so.

You can’t break a people who are made this way.

D.C. Innes

D.C. is associate professor of politics at The King's College in New York City and co-author of Left, Right, and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics. He is a former WORLD columnist.

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