Monday 27 February 2017

Liz O'Donnell: A nation shattered by its Boston trauma but still wedded to the gun

Etta Brown hugs her granddaughter Elysha Brown at a memorial to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings
Etta Brown hugs her granddaughter Elysha Brown at a memorial to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings

THERE was a movie-like quality to the coverage of events in Boston last week. Seeing the familiar streets brought back memories of a visit there last year. I was on a study tour organised by the Irish Institute at Boston College and sponsored by the US State Department.

Our brief was to examine "alternatives to political violence". We met with leading academics in conflict resolution, history and political science. Law enforcement officials and Homeland Security personnel gave detailed briefings on the enhanced co-ordination and sophistication of the security response to terrorist threats. There was a definite sense of a nation still on high alert, even on war footing.

The security response to the marathon bombings was impressive by any measure; indeed some might say disproportionate. But this would be to underestimate the traumatic legacy in the American psyche since 9/11. After all, what initially looked like a civilian plane crash on a bright sunny morning in New York escalated into a catastrophic act of terrorism resulting in the deaths of more than 3,000 Americans.

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