Moment of Truth

This is the point at which we start to decide what sort of people we are going to be: Will the terrorists win? Will we live in a police state?

Or will we find a way to live together, to work out some modicum of civilized order using grassroots structures, bottom-up power and a realization that we are all going to have to settle for less and allow others to do things we don’t like?

Settling is better than what we have in store if we keep on the path of Terror and Empire. So let’s just grit our teeth and get ready to work together in spite of our differences – or work around each other when our differences are too great for us to find a single solution.

The tension has been building for a long while. The blasts in Boston are ominous popping noises heard on a frozen lake. Patriots’ Day 2013 is going to be one of those dates we will look back on, like 9/11.

Let’s not fuck it up so badly this time.

People are freaking out about yesterday’s attack, which took place in the city where our last revolution started, on the day of its observance. This thing has symbolism galore, whether it is the dark fruit of a right-wing militia, a government conspiracy, a lone nut or – the least-likely scenario in my opinion – Islamists with a really keen sense of American culture, patriotism and mythology or some spectacular accidental timing.

There are a lot of people out there carrying a lot of fear, and this attack is well-designed to feed that fear. Let us not wallow in this toxic vacuum of speculation, misinformation and outright disinformation that is emanating from Boston like a foul plume of smoke. The exact identities of the perpetrators – as well as their punishments – don’t really matter to most of us. We can’t change any of it. The government will take care of that.

Our job is to do what we can to avoid further incidents. So whatever we might believe about or wish for those responsible, let us go about our business.

We should be vigilant, yes, but ultimately the danger comes not from the extraordinarily rare terrorist. Our real threat comes from the disintegration of community that has created landscapes of anonymous faces, deserted sidewalks and speeding automobiles. The collapse of community leaves us unable to tell what is really a threat.

The remedy to our fear cannot come from greater security; any serious contemplation of how to “secure” an urban marathon makes this clear.

Rather, we’ve got to rebuild the social infrastructure (as I noted in a previous post) and get to know what is really going on in our neighborhoods. By having a deeper knowledge of our neighbors, we’ll make it more likely that suspicion is based on something that is actually threatening instead of merely unusual. And we’ll make our lives better  in the extremely probable event that we’ll never personally cross paths with a terrorist.

It is time to stop screwing around. God knows I’m as guilty as anyone and I hereby confess and announce that it is time to stop waiting for an even more painful kick in the butt.

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