4:44 PM CDT, April 15, 2013
After 9/11, Americans assumed we were in for weeks, months or even years in which savage acts of political violence would become commonplace on American soil. We had all discovered how fanatical and savage our enemies were, and we could easily see how many easy targets were available.
The explosions that occurred on the Boston Marathon course today are a reminder of our vulnerability. But they are also a reminder of how extraordinarily rare terrorism is in this country.
What happened in Boston would hardly warrant news coverage in Iraq, which today saw 37 people die in at least 20 attacks across the country. It's a shock to Americans because it's so exceptional. A 2011 report by the University of Maryland's National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response found that the number of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil actually declined after 9/11, averaging just 16 a year. Between 2002 and 2010, it found, there were only 25 deaths in such incidents.
If there were many violent fanatics among us, they would have no trouble carrying out mass slaughter -- as the Newtown shootings proved. The number of places with little security and many people is huge, from shopping malls to street festivals to sporting events, like the Marathon. There are more places open to attack than we can ever hope to protect.
Fortunately, America is just not fertile ground for violent religious or political extremism. In a free, democratic society, the sympathy for expressing one's views through murder is very low. That's our greatest protection against terrorism.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC