I was several blocks away at a bar when the bombs exploded, having finished my fourth Boston Marathon about an hour earlier. I was fatigued but enjoying the table fellowship of my fellow runners, telling stories, drinking Guinness and thinking all was right in the world. The bombs, by all accounts cowardly planted by two Chechen brothers, tore through that serenity and replaced it with tears, anger and fear.

Two days have now passed since the brothers were neutralized, one dead, the other hospitalized in serious condition. The media gave us a morbidly fascinating window to the action, a real life Running Man, where the bad guys were pursued in house-to-house searches with military precision courtesy of the billions in tax dollars that perfected the security-surveillance state we call America. Michel Foucalt was presciently right; we are living in a Panopticon.

Before George Bush gave us the Department of Homeland Security, the states were more or less in charge of their own criminal justice systems. Criminal law and punishment, we should recall, are the dominion of the sovereign states, which was near universally true until the federalizing of every aspect of our lives began in earnest in the first part of the 20th century. Now, we are immune to seeing DHS vehicles present at PNC Park during Pirates games, and we don’t blink when the President of the United States hosts media events to commit his vast national security apparatus to lock-down residential neighborhoods or gin up popular support for trading our gun rights for a complete federal protectorate.

I believe in justice served and do not lament the ultimate fates of the men who terrorized the 117th Boston Marathon. But a Constitution that is so easily torn asunder in moments of popular angst will be impotent in protecting the liberty that very long ago made it and our nation unique.

Benjamin Gross
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