Who Bombed Boston: The Long Wait for a Name

The Boston Marathon's finish line Photograph by Kelvin Ma/Bloomberg via Getty Images

There is no person of interest. Boylston is still closed from Berkeley Street to Mass Avenue. The FBI is holding a press conference this morning at the Westin Copley Plaza, near the finish line. And now is the time when we wait.

It is hard to bear a tragedy. Harder still for a tragedy to have no meaning. And this one has, as yet, no meaning. Last night Peter Bergen on CNN had the temerity to point out that we might be able to guess at who’s responsible based on the type of bomb. Hydrogen peroxide, he said, is a signature of Al Qaeda, while conventional explosives might indicate “some other kind of right-wing extremists.” For this, he made a roundup of “The Grotesque Politicization of the Boston Bombing.” Bergen punctuated his conversation with apologies for what we don’t and can’t know, but he is being watched. We hate not having a meaning, but any attempt to fill that vacuum with thought is politicization.

There is only one thing we’re waiting for: the name of the person of interest. It will set in motion rounds of increasingly incautious accusations that we do not take the threat from terrorism—domestic or foreign—seriously enough. Once we have that name, groups of people whose job it is to have opinions can pull the right ones out of a drawer. After a natural disaster, we need not wait. We know that nature is cruel, and that pastors have comforting and insufficient answers. After a mass shooting, we need not wait. We know that some people are sad and lonely and deranged, and we can immediately pick up our arguments about guns and mental health where we last left them. But after a tragedy like this, we don’t yet know what to pull out of the drawer. We are biding our time with sadness and awe. But that will end the second we have a name.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.