Tuesday, May 4, 2010

There's something to be said for not panicking

The culprit of the failed car bombing attempt in Times Square was caught with relatively little fanfare. In this case the suspect is a naturalized US citizen who had recently returned from Pakistan. It would have been equally plausible for this attack to have been attempted by some of our own home-grown Tim McVeigh wannabes (of which there are too many). That said, there is something to be said for the rather sensible approach to locating and apprehending the suspect without panicking needlessly the rest of the citizenry, or finding yet another country to bomb into oblivion.

A British friend of mine told me back in September of 2001 that his best advice for his American friends was that we should keep our wits about us, rather than panic and look for scapegoats. He spoke from experience - Britain has dealt with the occasional terrorist attack from such organizations as the IRA for quite a long time. One gets used to the idea that life is not risk-free, and that also the risk of terrorist attacks is far lower than associated with many other daily activities (you're more likely to die in a car accident or work-related accident, for example than to be killed due to some extremist asshole's car bomb). I think we should also keep something else in mind: the extremist groups, regardless of their particular religious rhetoric (e.g., Muslim, Christian) tend to be very similar in mindset. I usually think of them all as - in the psychological sense - right-wing authoritarians. Maybe I can address this a bit more if time permits.

Note: not sure what to make of the news that the suspect was apparently in the midst of a foreclosure. That might suggest one interpretation for his idiotic act: anger over his financial circumstances. We've seen other acts of violence that had at least in part a financial motivation in recent months, including the guy who flew a private plane into an IRS building in Texas a few months ago. Something to ponder.

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