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Terrorism As Normal

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Examining the presidential response to a recently foiled terror attempt, there is a war between the political and the knee-jerk emotion. Terrorism, still improperly defined in the post-9/11 world, finds its power in raw adulteration. There is a parasitic quality to it, as it manages to eat away at an (arguably) stable social construct, inducing fear through what we only imagine on movie screens. Its strength is in its unpredictability or uncertainty - you can't control it.

To ponder the political implications of a response assumes a controlled environment when there is none. The act of terrorism, initial and raw animalistic survival-mode reaction to it followed by the organized chaos of government response all culminate into an unknown realm. Not so sure there's ever a "right" way to "deal" with the uncertain or unpredictable, so looking for a political solution is moot. That's why political responses to terrorist acts ring hollow.

Republicans can't win this, nor can Democrats who will - predictably - counter attack with accusations of Congressional obstructionism. All folks care about is safely getting from airport A to destination B in one piece. Any other conversation is the sizzling snow noise from a bad cable connection.

Looking more closely at the President's response, he appears wedded to the facts. Which makes him somewhat of a Thomas Gradgrind caricature, poking fun with Dickens' boorish school teacher in "Hard Times" - yet Obama plays it much more cool than the anxious Victorian Age schoolteacher who raps his students into nervous breakdowns. This President appears to be a fan of the facts in any situation - which isn't all that bad in comparison to his predecessor.

Mulling the last President's reaction, the current One yearns to do the opposite. Possible questions to advisers while feet propped on a fashionable Polynesian coffee table: "So, what happened last time we went through this?" "How did we respond?" "And, didn't the world go to hell in a hand basket because some insecure fools got a bit trigger happy?"

The calculation of antipodal response accomplishes a lifelong determination to remain Yoda-like, officially meditative, yet feeling empowered by the "allegedly" botched bombing attempt to the point where he can flip his finger at idiotic planners in Yemen who picked a sweaty college kid unable to blow up his underwear. So, why not use the moment as an opportunity to make them irrelevant? Isn't relevance the ultimate goal of any agitating militant?

There's a spiritual component to this, as well, similar to religion. Humanity creates dogmatic schemes to explain the inexplicable, an indoctrination of our collective fears. The President, more than most, recognizes this as a fact, in the same calibrated fashion he deals with every other political or policy question before him. He figures that, by now, we should have adapted to terrorism as never-ending reality, hence the downplay - in a way, he's attempting a bid at the normalcy of it, preparing the American psyche for the inevitable. It's a no-win situation: respond too much and he risks blowing the world up over a pair of failed explosive boxers; respond too little and he gets egg in the face for a few weeks, hearings into the next Congressional session and some bad momentary "optics" (pundit Word of the Day).

He picks door No. 2, shrugs then goes back to golf and beach-bumming with the First Fam. Sure, he appears detached from the concern of what might make folks feel better at any certain point. But, for better or for worse, the President is working this like a re-run of "Kung Fu," drawing calm from the chain-smoking he supposedly quit and striking a Buddha-like balance. So said 14th century Japanese warrior/thinker Shiba Yoshimasa: "The man whose profession is arms should calm his mind and look into the depths of others. Doing so is likely the best of the martial arts." As far as the President is concerned, his "system" did work since all we can do is worry about what next.

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