Commentary: The Boston Bombings: No Time for Political Overreaction

The source of the Boston bombings is unclear, but some politicians are already reaching unproductive conclusions.

Posted: 04/16/2013 05:57 PM EDT

It is a sign of the times in which we live that, when the news was broadcast in the minutes after two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on a Monday afternoon, many Americans seemed to know intuitively that it was the work of terrorists. The nation was aghast at the carnage at Copley Square and its message that terrorism remains an ever-present threat to America’s emotional stability.

As was the case with the World Trade Center attack some 12 years ago, terrorism does not respect race, ethnicity, age, income bracket or any other category. It is designed to create fear and panic in as wide a swath of society as possible. The proper response is for Americans to become even more vigilant and cautious, though committed to the very ideals of liberty that have made the United States the symbol it has become around the world.

However, in this environment of anxiety, there are leaders who will step boldly to embrace positions that are unreasonable and severe, not to mention politically motivated. An example of that is United States Congressman Steve King, a Republican from Iowa. King has expressed the notion that the events in Boston should now compel the country to put the brakes on any immigration reform.

It is a sad example of how some political forces will draw precisely the wrong conclusions and overreach in their response. Also, by calling for a halt in the legislative action on immigration, King seems to have reached some conclusions about the parties responsible for the Boston bombings when no one else has.

Since neither the FBI, the Obama administration nor any authorities in Massachusetts have indicated they have any knowledge of the identity of the bomber or bombers, King’s conclusions must be the product of extraordinary clairvoyance.

Moreover, there are perpetrators of terrorism that are homegrown and as American as apple pie. Terrorism of the domestic variety has been around for some time and with horrifying results. After all, Timothy McVeigh, the man who detonated a bomb that killed 168 people in Oklahoma City in 1995, was born and raised in New York State. The men who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and killed four Black girls in 1963 were no foreigners.

Placing onerous restrictions on immigration is not a sensible formula for alertness for terrorism. For now, the role of the government is to do what it has done so far: To encourage people to report anything they know that seems suspicious and to be as watchful as possible for alarming behavior. At the this point the discussions of broad political views on issues like immigration should be deferred – sensibly – to another day.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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