Fried: Who had the right response to the Boston Marathon attack, Justin Trudeau or Stephen Harper?

By: /
19 April, 2013
By: Mark Fried
Head of public policy, Oxfam Canada

I grew up in Massachusetts, so this cuts close. I’m concerned for my loved ones who are vulnerable, angry at the culprits who have tried to make us all afraid, and I yearn to turn both sentiments into something constructive.

I was in Madrid when bombs went off on a commuter train in March 2004, a kilometre from where I and my wife and son were staying. The response of the madrileños was astonishing and instructive.

Municipal and national leaders of all parties stood together. They denounced the perpetrators of course, and declared they would lead a memorial march to the site of the bombing. To commemorate the dead, yes, but also to counter the fear and to defy the fearmongers.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so moved as I was during that march. The downtown streets were tightly packed with people – two million, according to police – making their way very slowly in the darkness, under a cold drizzle. Other than drops of rain on umbrellas, the only sound was footsteps.

It was an audacious move to call people out and courageous of people to attend, for they were making themselves utterly vulnerable to attack. If we are going to be vulnerable, someone told me, we’d better be vulnerable together. The feeling was palpable in the crowd: we are afraid, we are angry, but we will not let them take our city away from us.

I hope and expect that good police work will catch the Boston culprits, as occurred in Madrid. But that is for the police. The responsibility of politicians is less to muse about causes, and certainly not to preach vengeance, but rather to help us understand our own intense feelings, and especially to mobilize us to channel our fear and our anger, to reaffirm our ties to each other, and to defiantly exercise our freedom.

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