How fast do news stories change? Last night, I had a draft of this post ready to go. It included comments about the Boston Marathon bombings. This morning, I had to start over.
I had written: “You can imagine a number of likely suspects, foreign and domestic, in general terms, but the investigation demands time to examine all the details. While CNN and other TV networks sprint towards breaking news, the FBI and other involved agencies must run a marathon of their own.”
Well, the FBI seems to have run a marathon in 9.58 seconds—the world record for 100 meters set by Jamaica’s Usain Bolt in 2009. They found and identified the remains of the bombs. They identified suspects from security videos then came up with faces and finally, names. As you doubtless know, The two suspects—brothers and ethnic Chechens—are believed to have held up a 7-Eleven store in Cambridge, murdered a school policeman at MIT and hijacked a Mercedes.
The elder, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was shot by police in Watertown and died at Beth Israel Hospital. Law enforcement personnel are looking for the younger, Dzhokhar Tarnaev, 19, who survived the shootout. He may be captured or killed by the time you read this.
Yet the marathon metaphor remains apt. If law enforcement authorities will have one run sprint, they’ll have to run another to answer important questions. Why did the brothers engage in this act of terrorism? Should anyone have picked up signals? Did they act alone? And can we expect copycat attempts from sick individuals seeking public exposure through such acts?
Okay, the Feds run a second sprint. But then the finish line moves again. How do we tighten security to make terrorist activities harder to plot and carry out? Do cities widen the use of video cameras? Do we form a National Video Association, inspired by the National Rifle Association, to encourage citizens to video every aspect of their lives should something go wrong?
Still, the tape keeps moving no matter how fast we run. Technology gives incredible power to police and security agencies. It enabled the FBI to make connections at seeming light speed. As KCBS Radio’s political analyst Marc Sandalow mentioned this morning, does this make us feel comfortable—or threatened? Where is the balance point between security and privacy? Does one exist at all?
Finally, how do we create a world in which we prevent the causes of terrorism? How do we reconcile Western ideas of peace and freedom with countless nations and peoples who don’t share our worldview and engage in violence that kills more people daily than died in Boston?
I conclude that life is one sprint after another—a marathon. The Talmud instructs that we must try to improve the world even if we can’t achieve that goal. Events of this week remind us that the finish line is a long way off. Yet decency demands that we put one foot in front of the other, mile after mile after mile.
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