Eric Bergeson: Keep calm and carry on in dire circumstances
You can take all the security precautions you want, but when a couple of self-destructive lunatics decide to create random, senseless mayhem, they will be as unstoppable as the weather.
The thing to do is deprive the lunatics of their goal by refusing to flinch. Instead of going into full alarm, angrily searching for scapegoats, turning public areas into armed camps, we should keep calm and carry on, recognizing that life has risks, one of the smallest of which is dying in a terrorist attack.
True, the lunatics usually die in the process of creating their mayhem. They don’t often get to enjoy the attention from their own actions.
What we forget is that future lunatics lick their chops at the massive amount of attention given the lunatic who just died. Mass coverage of this attack plants the seeds of the next.
If we could, and we probably can’t, we should turn the attention given these bombings and shootings down to about zero.
Keep calm and carry on. That’s what the British people proudly did during the 57 consecutive nights of terrorist bombing by the Nazis which left 40,000 dead in late 1940.
British public figures, most prominently their Queen, appeared in public only to show their fight, their spirit, and in the Queen’s case, their refusal to leave the besieged city for the safer pastures.
For her efforts, Hitler called then Queen Elizabeth “the most dangerous woman in Europe.” He recognized her vital role in keeping up the stern resolve of the British people.
Queen Elizabeth wouldn’t have been half as dangerous if, instead of being a symbol of strength, she had chosen to be the national comforter, dispensing long hugs and delivering weepy speeches as our presidents have been expected to do since Ronald Reagan initiated the novel and unfortunate tradition of public presidential grief.
No, while tens-of-thousands of her subjects died, the Queen showed only strength and defiance, exactly what the British needed to survive and eventually win the Battle of Britain.
Our recent shootings and bombings are pin-pricks in comparison to the London Blitz. Yet the non-stop media coverage makes it seem as if the country has been rocked to its very foundations each time.
The unexpected death of anybody is a tragedy. Shootings and bombings are abhorrent. However, we should recognize that these bombings and mass shootings have become media events way out of proportion to their almost non-existent impact on our national security.
In Boston? Horrific scenes, yes. But that same day, many more injuries and deaths happened to Americans in other areas for other reasons. Probably there were as many unrelated deaths in Boston itself.
But because the injuries were concentrated in one area, because there was a lot of video, and because there was the sense that this was done by an enemy, we predictably and sadly reacted just how future idiot bombers and shooters hope we’ll react: We gave the incident our full, sustained attention. For days.
A much worse explosion happened in Texas the same week. But because the culprit in Texas was a pile of fertilizer and not a deranged human, media coverage was a fraction of what was given to the incident in Boston.
No crowds at ballgames spontaneously sang The Yellow Rose of Texas. Nobody raged against fertilizer makers. The president didn’t show up to give hugs and emote.
If we really want to lessen the threat of frequent mass attacks by self-destructive, attention-starved lunatics, we must deprive them of their oxygen: Attention. The thrill of creating mass fear. The weird allure of going out with a blaze of glory.
We must also discontinue our unattractive habit of going into a national spasm of mourning whenever one of these desperate, inconsequential and relatively minor terror attacks happens.
The families of the victims get our full sympathy. They deserve it.
Everybody else should take a pill.
Let’s quit lowering the flag to half staff except for the death of a head of state, as used to be the custom.
Let’s not expect the president to show up at the site of every disaster to hug survivors and shed tears. In fact, let’s expect him or her to stay in the White House and act like things are normal until they’re truly not.
Let’s realize that solid behind-the-scenes police work prevents more terrorist attacks than frisking Grandma at the airport, an embarrassing practice which should end tomorrow as a matter of national pride and dignity.
In short, let’s start doing what the British people did in 1940 under much more dire circumstances: Keep calm and carry on.