April 28, 2013

David Rohde: Boston shows how to respond

After the bombings, compassion and tolerance hold as much sway as anger and defiance.

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"I take a chance and I explain," he said. "They need to hear from a Muslim that I don't condone this thing."

These are early days, of course. Flashes of anger emerge here. The day before images of the Tsarnaevs were released, an unidentified man assaulted a female Syrian doctor wearing a headscarf as she walked her 9-month-old daughter to daycare in the Boston suburb of Malden.

"He said, '(Expletive) you. (Expletive) you Muslims, You are terrorists, you are the ones who made the Boston explosion,' " Hebad Abolaban told the Boston Globe. "I was really, really completely shocked. I didn't know what to do. Then I realized what happened. I was crying and crying."

Neman, the Vietnamese immigrant, called for a stricter immigration system and like many Bostonians, expressed fury at reports that the older Tsarnaev brother received welfare.

One young man visiting the site of the bombings Thursday, who said he was a family friend of one of the victims, called for tighter immigration laws and trying the surviving brother in a military court.

"If they were a scumbag in their own country, why should we let them in ours?" asked the young man, who did not want to be named. "Why is our government prosecuting him (as if he) is one of us, when he obviously isn't?"

The anger is understandable. Bostonians have suddenly joined residents of Kabul, Tel Aviv, Mumbai and Tokyo in living with terrorist attacks. In the past, no one here knew how they might react to a bomb set off in a crowd, a crazed gunman or a poison gas attack.

But this city is responding exactly as it should. The accused are being prosecuted as criminals, which they are. Public institutions are being praised, as they should be. And most people are resisting the attackers' attempt to sow fear, bigotry and division.

While television images show the immediate chaos of attacks, they rarely convey the long-term reaction.

Bostonians are responding in the way average people have around the world when confronted with extremism. They help victims, feel contempt for the perpetrators and vow to not let them win.

I expect massive crowds at next year's Boston Marathon. So does Tanger, the volunteer.

"I'm not afraid, I'm not afraid of the bombers" he said. "I'll be back every year as long as I can walk."

We should learn from, listen to and laud him and his city.

Maine native David Rohde is a columnist for Reuters, a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and a former reporter for The New York Times and Christian Science Monitor.


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