“How to defeat terrorism? Don’t be terrorized. Don’t let fear rule your life. Even if you are scared.” Salmon Rushdie
The events in Boston this week have shown us once again that we in the United States are not able to completely be safe from the acts of terrorists. While we do not know the motivations or affiliation of the Tsarnaev brothers, nor if they are connected to others in this country or abroad who would attempt similar acts of terrorism.
The attack by the brothers Tsarnaev was unsettling but it did not fill the city of Boston with fear. Instead, that city, its citizens, its law enforcement agencies as well as Federal and State law enforcement showed a resolve that I do not think that either the Tsarnaev brothers or other terrorists, foreign or domestic expected. Even as the citizens of the city grieved a systematic investigation that relied on the help of citizens identified the brothers and flushed them out of hiding. When the battle with the terrorists began in the streets of Watertown the city went on lockdown until one was killed and the other captured. The operation to identify and capture the two brothers was like nothing seen in this country.
Americans, especially those in the “liberal” Blue states like Massachusetts are supposed to be soft and cowardly. However the people of Boston showed how wrong they are in their assessment.
Terrorists tend to be rather dismissive of how Americans will react when attacked. They are a rather arrogant type of people. They are “True believers” who believe that they alone and those that agree with them completely are right, that they alone have heaven’s blessing and that others be damned. Salmon Rushdie, the Iranian novelist who has lived under the threat of death for decades said of them: “The fundamentalist believes that we believe in nothing. In his world-view, he has his absolute certainties, while we are sunk in sybaritic indulgences. To prove him wrong, we must first know that he is wrong.”
It was fascinating for me to read that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was thrown out of the Boston Islamic center recently for going into a tirade against the Imam for using Dr Martin Luther King Jr as an example to emulate. Tamerlan shouted “You cannot mention this guy because he’s not a Muslim!” to the shock and dismay of those in attendance. When I read this I immediately thought of something written by Eric Hoffer:
“A doctrine insulates the devout not only against the realities around them but also against their own selves. The fanatical believer is not conscious of his envy, malice, pettiness and dishonesty. There is a wall of words between his consciousness and his real self.”
Somehow I do not think that this will be the last terror attack that we see from some true believer, be they Islamic and connected with one of the myriad of Islamic terrorist groups, or domestic American ant-government or anarchist types from the right or the left. Their world views may seem disparate, religious, political, economic or social from points all around the spectrum of belief but they are surprisingly alike. They believe that they are the holders of truth and righteousness. Those that do not agree with them or who they believe have offended them, their “god” be that “god” a deity, a book of scriptures or their political, economic or social beliefs are the enemy and worthy of desruction. However, I think that Charles Dickens writing in David Copperfield said was right when he said “what such people miscall their religion, is a vent for their bad humours and arrogance.”
This week we saw two young men who had lived in our country for over a decade decide to, for yet unknown reasons decide to attack, kill and maim fellow citizens as well as visitors to this country. I’m sure that they thought that they were doing something heroic. However, the real heroes were the people of Boston who responded to the attack providing help and hospitality to those injured or displaced and the men and women of law enforcement who helped hunt the Tsaraev brothers down. Salmon Rushdie was right the way to fight terrorism is not to be terrorized and not to live in fear. It is time that we learned that lesson like so many Bostonians did this week.
As far as the terrorists themselves, to quote Major Kira Nerys from Star Trek Deep Space Nine “Terrorists don’t get to be heroes.”