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A Terrorist Attack in Real America – New York Times

Disasters that strike close to home inevitably affect us differently from those we observe at a distance. I cross the bike path near the spot where the terrorist crashed his truck every day. My kids learned to ride their bikes on the same path that became Tuesday’s scene of carnage. We celebrated our older daughter’s bat mitzvah at a restaurant just off that path. My son went to soccer camp at Pier 40, where the rampage began. “There but for the grace of God go I” may be the world’s most shopworn phrase, but it’s one you feel keenly after an event like this.

Disasters at close range also have a way of making ideological pronouncements seem remote, feckless and wretched. Donald Trump promised in a tweet to “step up our already Extreme Vetting Program.” Then he blasted Chuck Schumer, New York’s Democratic senior senator, for the diversity visa lottery under which the suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, supposedly arrived in the United States from Uzbekistan.

Yet the notable fact is that even if the administration’s signature multination travel ban had been in place for decades, it would not have kept Saipov from entering the country legally and obtaining a green card before going on his killing spree. And getting a visa through a “diversity program” does not mean that he wasn’t vetted by the United States before his arrival or that he couldn’t have been denied entry on security grounds.

Determined fanatics will usually outwit the Department of Homeland Security’s games of whack-a-mole. A heavy-handed immigration policy will never be an effective counterterrorism strategy.

In the meantime, the responses that are meaningful, and for which one feels actual gratitude, are all local: Ryan Nash, the officer who shot the suspect as he waved what seemed to be two guns (toys, as it turned out) in the middle of West Street; the parents and teachers at P.S. 89 for sheltering the kids just as they were being let out for the day; the police and fire departments and emergency medical services for turning the world’s most vulnerable city into one of the safest and most welcoming.

This is real America. Most of the people who live or work nearby, from the Goldman bankers to the Stuyvesant whiz kids, are strivers who came from other places and started with a lot less. We feel intense pride in our city and country, though we don’t feel the compulsion constantly to profess that pride as proof of our patriotism or as an expression of a cultural resentment.

Few of us may go to church or own a gun, and hardly any of us voted for the president. But we are good friends to our neighbors, look out for their children and feel nothing but gratitude for the people who protect us. And we choose to live in a place that we know is a target for fanatics because fanatics will always target the things we prize most: openness, diversity, sky-high ambition and the belief that we are more than simply our racial or religious identities.

Something unreal, as people say, happened in my neighborhood on Tuesday. But we stayed real, and trick-or-treating proceeded on schedule.


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A Terrorist Attack in Real America – New York Times

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