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Tim Blagg

Tim Blagg: Tightening the limits

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This past week is going down as one of the strangest in my memory ... right up there with that terrible time at a Fort Knox rifle range when we heard that John F. Kennedy had been shot.

It started with the annual concern for getting all my income tax documents signed, sealed and delivered. My only notice of the Boston Marathon was that of gratitude. It’s held on Patriot’s Day, and that offers a little grace period for us here in Massachusetts.

Then I heard about the bombing, and went into editor mode, worrying about how The Recorder would add its piece of local reaction and participation into the big story.

But that story just got stranger and stranger. Within a very short period of time (marked by major mistakes on the part of some of the major news media, I have to add) authorities had identified the possible culprits and the manhunt was on.

Then came the shoot-out in Watertown, the death of one of the brother/suspects, the intensive house-to-house search, and finally the discovery of the second brother.


Very intense, very draining, very emotional.

Now, of course, comes the long, drawn-out process of trying to make sense of the whole thing. Unfortunately, in this day and age, that means endless hours of nattering talking heads on TV, long op-ed pieces by “experts” and thousands of hours of goobers expressing their prejudices on talk radio.

This part, I can do without.

Of course, come to think of it, that’s what I’m doing in this column — so I guess I am part of the problem!

Nonetheless, I’ll wade in.

One lesson, of course, is that no large gathering of people for any purpose in the country is really safe.

That’s a sobering thought, but we’re going to have to live with it.

We’re also going to have to live with additional security measures, including more and more security cameras, armed security guards in malls and even schools, routine checks of bags and purses ... things other countries have been enduring for years.

And, despite concerns by civil libertarians, we’re going to have to think hard about monitoring mullahs at local mosques and Islamic schools for indications that they’re trying to radicalize young men.

I know this last idea is full of pitfalls, but it’s becoming clear that some preachers are creating would-be martyrs. The New York City Police Department has been criticized lately for surveilling mosques for this sort of activity ... they’re in trouble with the ACLU.

But when I heard the uncle of the two Cambridge brothers say he thought the older one had been radicalized by teachers right there in their Boston suburb, alarm bells went off.

Yes, we have First Amendment rights in this country that allow religious freedom ... from going to any church we wish to sacrificing chickens or smoking peyote.

But there are also laws against advocating violent acts against others ... and that’s a line we MUST keep clear.

The only way to do that is keep a wary eye on anyone — and I’m including Christian preachers who foment militants — who tries to create the sort of person who could leave a bomb in a crowd and saunter away without a thought for the victims.

Freedom has limits — we’ve always known that in this country — and it looks like the Boston Marathon bombing is probably going to tighten those limits a little for all of us, in an effort to make us safer.

It’s too bad, but that’s the new reality.

Blagg has been Editor of The Recorder since 1986. He lives in Greenfield and is a military historian with an interest in local history. He can be reached at: tblagg@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 250.

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