Yesterday three people were killed near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, and others are in critical condition as I’m writing this. CNN has declared this to be “terrorism,” even though there have been no reports of a suspect or an arrest and no proclamations of responsibility. Lots of people, including me, have pet theories, but we don’t know anything. It could be a politically motivated terrorist attack, but terrorists generally proclaim their grounds for killing, otherwise people won’t know what to be terrified of. It could be one person with an insane hatred of Boston, athletics, or anything else. About all we can confidently say is that it was deliberate murder and that the killer wasn’t particular about who died.
The best way to respond is to mourn the dead, find and punish the guilty, and continue with life. If, say, negligence had let a bridge collapse producing equivalent suffering, we’d know how to do this. In the present case, we’re already seeing opportunistic conclusions drawn and fingers pointed without evidence, and it won’t be long before politicians exploit people’s fear and sympathy with new power grabs.
It’s important to keep the event in perspective. Last year there were 58 homicides in Boston. Yesterday’s were particularly gruesome and public, but the killing of people is an ongoing concern.
We’ve also seen numerous stories of people who offered help in an emergency. Certainly every act to reduce human suffering must have disappointed the murderer.