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We Can Only Do So Much To Stop Terrorism

Danny Galvin |
April 26, 2013 | 11:55 a.m. PDT


While reading a CNN article detailing statistical analysis of people’s reactions to terrorism, I wasn’t shocked that the percentage of people who see terrorism as a “part of life” is as high as it has ever been since Sept. 11, nor that a relatively small minority claim to be very worried about another attack.

Will a laissez-faire attitude towards terrorism lead to a higher rate of domestic attack? (9/11 photos, Creative Commons)
Will a laissez-faire attitude towards terrorism lead to a higher rate of domestic attack? (9/11 photos, Creative Commons)

What shocked me was how similarly the overall message aligned with an Onion article entitled “This What World Like Now.” Satire, news media and Americans seem to have come to a rare mutual conclusion: terrorism will continue occurring at home and there is nothing we can do about it.

So here we are as American citizens, stuck in a world where a terrorist attack that can affect millions of lives with one relatively small blast is incredibly easy and unpredictable, and we feel helpless to do anything about it. Will this laissez-faire attitude lead to a higher rate of domestic attacks?

Well, in apparent agreement with the 60 percent of Americans who think government actions have made the United States safer since Sept. 11, statistics indicate that domestic terrorism has indeed decreased since that fateful day. But, like America, I’m split on if the government or we, the people, can do more without sacrificing our inalienable rights and freedoms as well as our trust in our neighbors and fellow Americans.

And really, what can we do? At the expense of losing my Republican readership, gun control needs to be stricter (for a variety of reasons that aren’t worth discussing in this article), but Congress will probably never come to a unified agreement on anything firearms-related. Even if both parties could agree on a solution to control guns, criminals like the Boston bombers often don’t go through the legal hassle of registering their weapons and getting gun permits. In addition, with the relative ease it takes to make extremely dangerous explosives like pipe and pressure-cooker bombs, stopping guns won’t stop terrorism. The supplies are too easy to purchase, the instructions too readily available and the results too obviously vicious for simple gun laws to seriously obstruct would-be terrorists.

And how could potential terrorists be tracked? By stereotyping? Some claim that we should be more wary of certain ethnic groups—usually Arabic Muslims at this point in history—and should report “suspicious-looking” (code for ethnic) people to authorities if we see them at airports or high-profile events. Not only is this idea morally repugnant, it is also irrational. Domestic terrorism has been committed by people of all races and ethnic backgrounds. These recent attacks, although purportedly done under the influence of radical Islam, were committed by two young Russian men.

Then, of course, to track everyone would be the equivalent of creating a police state, with the military and law enforcement constantly stalking our whereabouts with cameras, background checks and snipers on rooftops. The near martial law that Boston experienced under after the attacks had many citizens up in arms. Even though, to be fair, quite a few of these protesters were crazy conspiracy theorists, the risk of living in a Big-Brother country is a legitimate concern for Americans. If TSA body scanners caused protest among some citizens, imagine the outrage that installation of cameras on every corner and tanks roaming the streets of Boston in peacetime would cause.

It seems that all we can do is trust that our government is doing everything within its power to prevent terrorism and be sure to keep informed on its practices and policies in giving that trust. I am glad that America is neither worried, nor living in fear of another attack, as fear holds back progress, but at the same time, our citizens cannot lack vigilance. It’s a delicate balance, but one Americans must now treat carefully in the foreseeable future.


Reach Contributor Danny Galvin here.



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