NEW YORK, April 22, 2013 - Just seven days from mid-April and we remain in shock.
It was Patriots’ Day last Monday in Boston. It was a day to celebrate the long race for liberty Americans run for precious humanity. This year, it became a day we shall never forget, for all the wrong reasons.
Why cut down and shred so many lives near the end of an historic race?
Last Monday, so few of us had the time, the training, or the temperament to take to storied streets and test bodies on a course that wends its way through the foundation of our common national history.
The pack of runners during the 117th edition of the Boston Marathon took off from Hopkinton, through Ashland, and Natick, and Wellesley–some 21 miles later, they crested Heartbreak Hill in Newton. Down the runners streamed through Brookline, with the elite crossing the finish line just over two hours from their start.
Eventually, thousands of competitors completed the long journey, some almost effortlessly, but most labored. Onlookers soaked in the spectacle, searching for contestants important to them and honoring those they barely knew.
Then, near 2:50 PM, unspeakable horror visited a racecourse that reveled in earned honor.
We cannot describe in mere words the sudden loss of life, of limb, of serenity.
How can we understand the dread moment when friends, families, and strangers found abject horror as they sought only to celebrate life, to chase dreams and so to fulfill promise in human destiny?
Why oh why?
Of the two admitted demons so far, one is dead and the other incapacitated. Both were newcomers to America- the youngest was naturalized on September 11, 2012.
There may be others who participated in the attacks. There may be still more who encouraged and enabled another futile attempt to still our national spirit. Moreover, there certainly will be follow-on attacks.
We are tempted now to go down a convenient path—to assume that no sane person or group of people could wish so many strangers so much harm. Yet, even if the perpetrators were simply mad, the carnage still maims each of our souls.
How could anyone hate America and Americans this much?
Defeating the Cross-Border Politics of Envy
The poorest corners of Boston and environs are richer and safer by orders of magnitude than countless cities outside the United States of America.
We cannot imagine eking out existence in constant terror, where punishment is by whim, where death and mutilation are so common they are not tragedies but mere constants.
It would be simple to assume that envy over the disparity in material wealth is what animates those who attack us inside our Homeland and fellow citizens who travel abroad.
At this writing, clues have surfaced suggesting that the elder perpetrator embraced a radical and hateful strain of twisted thinking woven upon discredited writing held out by some, so-called Imams who claim they are devout Muslims.
In the fullness of time, we shall learn just who may have lit the incendiary sparks that moved the known perpetrators to commit their heinous acts. Though we grieve, this is not a time to stoop and to lash out, seeking rough justice.
As we move now to heal the lives of victims and their families, we owe it to ourselves to understand that the War we rightly wage against Terror is not a War we can simply delegate to valiant members of our fighting and police forces.
We Americans are the first force for good and inspiration to those held in check by so many brutal regimes that still operate across the globe. To retain hope for ourselves and lift hope for others, we must walk rightly and inspire greatness by our own varied examples.
The Time for Winning has Arrived
In 1938, war-weary Neville Chamberlain extolled yet another set of words on paper—the Munich Agreement:
“We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German naval agreement, as symbolic of the desire of our two people never to go to war with one another again.”
As Chamberlain and the world learned, appeasing evil never keeps evil in check for long.
We are a nation that continually sacrifices our blood, in valiant hope for the liberation and advancement of others. Our brave fighting forces have freed hundreds of millions of people over decades since December 7, 1941—the first time we were subject to surprise attack on American soil.
With our allies, we won peace, for a time, after World War II not simply by dropping armaments but, more importantly, by utterly discrediting vicious and hate-filled ideologies that destroyed whatever dignity our enemies could hope to retain as they so foolishly fought against freedom.
Some say in 2013 that America has fought too many wars already—that we must withdraw, work from the shadows and somehow “lead from behind”.
So far, we have tried unequalled military force, we have tried olive branches, and we have even signaled our willingness to retreat from foreign battlefields. Yet, in Boston last week and now today, cowardly, shadowy groups conspire to sap our will by hitting the least protected among us.
The reality is that all Americans are already runners in a great contest of ideals—we embrace the notion that unbridled choice brings out the best in each of us; darker approaches demand that we submit to a cruel rule by men who speak for their vision of God.
Outside our borders, this contest may not be settled in many lifetimes. On sovereign American soil, we have been telling a different story for many decades.
Recently, the great race America runs is over cycles of 26 long years, not 26 short miles.
After Pearl Harbor, on June 12, 1987, President Reagan traveled to Berlin where he stunned more cautious folk by imploring General Secretary Gorbachev to do the unthinkable:
“…if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
By the four-year mark, in 1991, the Berlin Wall was crumbling down. At the 14 year mark, Americans struggled with an unexpected assault against our Homeland but we since have climbed patiently up through years of heartbreak to a finish line that now is in clear sight.
The most beautiful of memorials will not return our fallen angels, fully heal our grievously wounded, or restore the minds and hearts of families and communities so tragically brutalized on a glorious spring day.
What can we Americans do?
What concrete steps should we, the People, take now that we must admit that our nation is still not safe from threats foreign and domestic even though we currently spend more than $ 45,000 per household on federal, state, and local government?
Light up the telephone lines, and fill up the email inboxes of your elected representatives. Let them know that a country that manages to spend $ 5.5 trillion on government each year must be able to protect the Homeland. Bring us the best of our best ideas.
We are all marathon runners now.
We shall lead history from in front—even if we must drag our elected leaders kicking and screaming from behind!
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