Friday, April 26, 2013

Reflections on the Tsarnaev manhunt, one week after

On April 18, Americans residing around the city of Boston were alerted by their neighbors that an imminent threat to their safety was in their midst. Throughout the night, they were warned about the danger to their property and their families.

As April 19 dawned, those Bostonians who were willing, along with many others from surrounding communities, armed themselves and took to the streets and fields in defense of their homes, communities, and fellow citizens...

...wait, WHAT?

No, that wasn't April 18-19, 2013 - but it should have been. It was April 18-19, 1775 and the Battles of Lexington and Concord. The Boston Marathon, and the Massachusetts holiday of Patriots' Day, are held in recognition of the day when Americans truly started the fight for Independence from the tyranny of British rule.

In addition to being acts of terrorism, the bombs set off at the Boston Marathon were acts of tyranny. For now Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect, is under arrest and is still presumed innocent until he is proven guilty by our legal system. He is an American citizen, and his civil liberties must be protected and insured as they should be for any criminal defendant.

I'm not surprised at the rapidity of law enforcement's identification of the likely perpetrators and the speed at which they were apprehended. Our law enforcement may not be the best at preventing crime, but in reality, that's not their role. When it comes to identifying, pursuing, capturing, and trying the guilty, there's none better than the combined law enforcement apparatus of the United States, our individual states, and municipalities. They all deserve our admiration for their responses and rapid capture of the alleged perpetrators.

I'm appalled though by the passiveness which we as citizens largely accepted that we'd have to rely on the government to protect us.

Back last summer after the Aurora, Colorado movie theater mass shooting, I wrote in this space that the appropriate response for all of us was preparedness: that was the only way we could ever hope to have, as I put it, "no more Veronicas" - referring to one of the victims, six year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan.

Last December, we added the children of Newtown, Connecticut to the roster of Veronicas. On Monday, April 15 we added 8 year-old Martin Richard in the bombings. Martin's younger sister lost a leg in the attack.

As my friend Sister Toldjah pointed out last Friday, one of the most haunting images - if not the most - from Monday, 4/15/2013 is this:

There is Martin Richard, ovaled in blue. His now-maimed younger sister is next to him in the green sweatshirt or jacket. Circled in red with the white ball cap is one of the alleged bombers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. In the red oval is the backpack containing the bomb that killed Martin and injured dozens of others.

Stop for a second and think: how many times have you been told to be aware of unattended items left behind?

Do you actually stay aware of your surroundings? For the record, I am not blaming spectators for not noticing a backpack left behind and the resultant deaths and carnage. It can't be denied though that increased vigilance on the part of every citizen who was there might have saved three lives and prevented dozens of other severe injuries.

Then, there's this series of pictures from the night of April 18-19, 2013. The person who took them had a front-row seat out his apartment window to the gun battle in Watertown, MA allegedly between the Tsarnaev brothers and law enforcement. I'd just like to highlight one of the pictures:

How wide is a typical city residential street, twenty-five feet? Figure another five for a sidewalk, and the picture being taken from the 3rd floor of the building (photographer's words), call it 24 feet up, and you're looking at a range to suspects of about 42 1/2 feet. Be generous and call it 15 yards.

What if he had a gun instead of a camera?

He could unambiguously see two people shooting at identifiable police officers less than 50 feet away from his position.

The manhunt should have ended on that street, right there, right then. If it hadn't been the photographer to take direct action in defense of society, why not some other law-abiding, armed citizen who witnessed what transpired?

Even someone with VP Joe Biden's favored shotgun should have been able to lay them out, to say nothing of an AR-15 or a pistol with better than a snub-sized barrel. The suspects were in the process of attempting to murder police officers. How can anybody feel good about just being able to take pictures of that?

Frankly, that picture of the gun battle should strike you as just as haunting as the one of Martin Richard in the last moments of his young life.

The second picture is indicative of the death not of a child, but of our society. We are responsible for the defense of our society, not our governments. We are responsible for coming to the aid of first responders - police, fire, EMS, what have you - because they alone will never be enough to protect us, our society, and keep our homes and families safe and secure.

I promise this: a shootout with police ever going on outside my window? You had damn well better believe I'm taking the perpetrators in the flank with fire and coming to the aid of law enforcement. That is my duty, my obligation, as a member of society - for if I won't stand and protect it, why should I expect anyone to do it for me?

On April 19, 2013, the word went out in greater Boston to "lock down", to hide, to cower in fear; to let the police do their thing. Ultimately, it wasn't the massive police search and presence but a private citizen who remained vigilant about his surroundings that led to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's arrest.

No, the call should have gone out not for lock down, but for everybody who was willing to assemble for search and community protection duties under the direction of the Governor of Massachusetts and law enforcement to take up their arms and be ready to fight.

What is more intimidating to those who would work their acts of tyranny and terrorism against us: a response by just law enforcement or a response by law enforcement reinforced by hundreds or thousands of private citizens who will willingly defend their homes, communities, and society?

If we lock down, if we give up more liberty in the hopes of "safety" we lose, not those who would do us harm. If "We, the people" decide to stand and fight, we will never be defeated - by anyone.

238 years ago, as that fight of April 19 began, about 500 Boston-area citizens stood firm. By the end of the day, they were nearly 4,000 strong.

Be vigilant, even when you think you don't have to be.

Be brave, even when you are afraid.

Be the Boston of 1775, not 2013.

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