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Wayne Post
  • Richard L. Hermann: Fighting terrorism, living our lives

  • The tragedy that befell Boston on Patriots Day, April 15, brought to mind a number of related as well as disjointed thoughts about terrorism — and marathons.

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  • The tragedy that befell Boston on Patriots Day, April 15, brought to mind a number of related as well as disjointed thoughts about terrorism — and marathons.
    Because we have not been hit since 9/11, we have developed unwarranted confidence in the ability of our government to protect us. It is akin to the unjustified assumptions we hold about medicine, namely that it is an exact science that can pinpoint a health problem and apply a therapeutic program to deal with it. Neither medicine nor counter-terrorism can now — or ever — meet that lofty bar. As the Irish Republican Army said after it blew up the Brighton hotel where Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was speaking: “You (Britain) have to be right 100 percent of the time; we have to be right only once.”
    While the U.S. has made great strides in protecting us against foreign terrorism and major mass attacks, we have a big problem with rogue attacks by individuals. Government was, is, and will always be unable to thwart every such plot. It was thanks to alert citizens, not government, that the shoe and underwear bombers and Times Square bomber were stopped before they could cause the death and destruction they intended. Similar reliance on the public is at the top of the list of law enforcement priorities in the aftermath of the Boston attack.
    We need to focus additional resources on domestic terrorists to the extent we can. The polarization of the public has generated more threatening activity at society’s extremes than we have seen in a long time. From eco-terrorists on the left to anti-government militias on the right, government needs to be more vigilant. As with the foreign jihadists who want to bring us down, we need to monitor and stymie the domestic extremist groups that might harm us while acknowledging that individual rogues like Tim McVeigh and the Unabomber may very well be unstoppable.
    At the same time, we need to be able to go on with our daily lives, taking reasonable precautions, but not overreacting, which is exactly what the terrorists want us to do. After 9/11, places like Wyoming received far more in per capita counter-terrorism and first-responder dollars than New York City and Washington, an absurd misallocation of resources given the likelihood that Times Square and the White House are considerably higher on the terrorist target list than Cheyenne and Casper. That must not happen again.
    Waxing philosophical for a moment, the marathon has had a sad association with death from its beginnings. The very first marathon runner, Phidippides, who brought the news of the epic Athenian victory at Marathon to Athens 25 miles away, collapsed and died immediately upon announcing the triumph. When Black September infiltrated the security-less Munich Olympic Village in 1972 and took 13 Israeli athletes hostage, my college track teammate, Frank Shorter, watched in horror from his dorm room balcony directly across the way. Twenty-one hours later, 13 athletes were dead and the Olympics were suspended for one day.
    Page 2 of 2 - Frank wondered what he should do. He had trained for 12 years for this moment, but had qualms about competing in a sporting event when so much real life intervened. He decided that all he could do to honor the dead and show the terrorists that they cannot win was run. On the final day of the Olympics, he ran and won the marathon. For Shorter, the Olympics and the world, it was a redemptive event, demonstrating that life must go on.
    Richard Hermann is a part-time Canandaigua resident and Canandaigua Academy graduate. Email him at messenger@messengerpostmedia.com
     
     
     

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