Bruce Schneier's terrific Atlantic essay on the Boston Marathon bombings is a must-read. As he points out, the terrorists win only if we let this sort of thing scare us. By being empathic toward the victims and indomitable and fearless toward the criminals, we can create a climate where politicians can get away with telling us the truth -- there's no such thing as perfect security -- instead of politically expedient lies that lead to an out-of-control security state that takes away our freedoms, diverts our education, unemployment and health money to security theater, and leaves us no safer.
How well this attack succeeds depends much less on what happened in Boston than by our reactions in the coming weeks and months. Terrorism isn't primarily a crime against people or property. It's a crime against our minds, using the deaths of innocents and destruction of property as accomplices. When we react from fear, when we change our laws and policies to make our country less open, the terrorists succeed, even if their attacks fail. But when we refuse to be terrorized, when we're indomitable in the face of terror, the terrorists fail, even if their attacks succeed.
Don't glorify the terrorists and their actions by calling this part of a "war on terror." Wars involve two legitimate sides. There's only one legitimate side here; those on the other are criminals. They should be found, arrested, and punished. But we need to be vigilant not to weaken the very freedoms and liberties that make this country great, meanwhile, just because we're scared.
Empathize, but refuse to be terrorized. Instead, be indomitable -- and support leaders who are as well. That's how to defeat terrorists.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.