Rick Perlstein’s take:
As ghastly, evil, overwhelming, tragic, as the events this week in Boston, Texas, the Capitol mail rooms, have been, it’s easy to forget, in our oh-so-American narcissism, enveloped in the wall-to-wall coverage that makes our present catastrophe feel like the most important events in the universe, how safe and secure Americans truly are by any rational standard. Terror shatters us here precisely because ours is not a terrifying place compared to so much of the rest of the world. And also not really an objectively terrifying time, compared other periods in the American past: for instance, Christmastime, 1975, when an explosion equivalent to twenty-five sticks of dynamite exploded in a baggage claim area, leaving severed heads and other body parts scattered among some two dozen corpses; no one ever claimed responsibility; no one ever was caught; but pretty much, the event was forgotten, life went on, and no one anywhere said “everything changed.”
A less narcissistic time, perhaps. Not now. Now, we let trauma consume us. Now, our desperate longing to know—to find easy, immediate answers—confines us, makes us frantic, reduces us to our basest cognitive instincts.
On an average day in America, 85 people are shot dead. There are now five dead in Boston, including one of the suspected bombers – over the course of five days. I’d say our reaction is less about narcissism than a collective form of PTSD stemming from 9/11.
Nonetheless, we don’t yet know whether others could be involved, or the scale of this terror plot. And authorities have to weigh excruciating risks – between over-reaction and under-reaction – in a fog of fact and fiction. They deserve a break. What we do know is that the bombers had another pressure-cooker bomb with them as they sped toward Watertown. They could have terrorized again.
(Photo: SWAT teams moved into position at the intersection of Nichols Avenue and Melendy Avenue in Watertown while searching for one of the two marathon bombing suspects. By Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)