Op-ed pick: Lehane says bombers messed with the wrong city

On Tuesday, we aired an interview that Kerri Miller recorded last week with author Dennis Lehane, whose latest novel is “Live By Night.” In the last few minutes, he talked about his hometown of Boston.

“There’s something about Boston,” he said. “I’ve traveled enough to be able to say this. … There’s something in the water that’s passed to all of us. Bostonians are just a little odd. You can’t understand it until you really live it. They just have a strange perspective on the world. It’s a little bit derisive, it’s a little bit sardonic, and it’s a little bit tied into this idea that we’re the punch line to God’s joke. … I wish I could describe it.”

“Boston’s not the friendliest city by any means, not even close,” he said. “But … the true Bostonians are people who always walk the walk. They don’t talk the talk at all, they don’t waste their time. But they will walk the walk. A friend-in-need kind of vibe is very strong there.”

Lehane offered those observations to Miller the week before the bombing of the Boston Marathon. After the bombing, he wrote an op-ed for The New York Times in which he amplified his views. The op-ed is titled “Messing With the Wrong City.”

“I do love this city,” he wrote. “I love its atrocious accent, its inferiority complex in terms of New York, its nut-job drivers, the insane logic of its street system. … Bostonians don’t love easy things, they love hard things — blizzards, the bleachers in Fenway Park, a good brawl over a contested parking space. Two different friends texted me the identical message yesterday: They messed with the wrong city. This wasn’t a macho sentiment. It wasn’t ‘Bring it on’ or a similarly insipid bit of posturing. The point wasn’t how we were going to mass in the coffee shops of the South End to figure out how to retaliate. Law enforcement will take care of that, thank you. No, what a Bostonian means when he or she says ‘They messed with the wrong city’ is ‘You don’t think this changes anything, do you?’

“Trust me, we won’t be giving up any civil liberties to keep ourselves safe because of this. We won’t cancel next year’s marathon. We won’t drive to New Hampshire and stockpile weapons. When the authorities find the weak and terminally maladjusted culprit or culprits, we’ll roll our eyes at whatever backward ideology they embrace and move on with our lives.”

In his op-ed piece, Lehane reprised the walk-the-walk point he had made to Miller.

“When the civilian bystanders to the attack ran toward the first blast to give aid to the victims, without a second thought for their own safety, the primary desire of the terrorists — to paralyze a populace with fear — was already thwarted. …

“Boston took a punch on Monday — two of them, actually — that left it staggering for a bit. Flesh proved vulnerable, as flesh is wont to do, but the spirit merely trembled before recasting itself into something stronger than any bomb or rage.”

  • JQP

    “boston” (and homeland security, FBI, etal) did not capture some thoughtful careful well organized terrorist. It captured a couple of largely stupid, disorganized youth who had internet access and time to act on petty personal hate/stress/anxiety.

    What this investigation and its analysis in the media has done, is to advise any other local bone-heads and agitators – what to avoid should they choose to “display” their frustration with some part of our society.

    If you want a perspective on how this can play out – read about ETA in Spain. It took decades to resolve a loosely “organized” terror campaign. These boys in Boston … they could be the tip of totally random , unaffiliated, single-bone-to-pick , why-NOT-a-bomb , Loners. Everywhere.
    That’s not so fixable Mr. Lahane.

    • Fred Garvin

      ” did not capture some thoughtful careful well organized terrorist. ”
      I suspect we might find out otherwise.

  • marlo

    JQP — I largely agree with you. What is most frightening is how aimless and hapless those two boys were — yet they still managed to kill 3 people and seriously maim several others. Many of the dozens who were injured will be dealing with pain and physical ailments from these bombings for the rest of their lives, not mention astronomical out of pocket medical costs. So they inflicted a lot of damage despite their stupidity (and no one may ever be able to figure out why they did it — their motivations are very murky and shapeless). But I think this is a separate issue from what Lehane is talking about when he describes how Bostonians are, and how they reacted to (and are till in the process of reacting to) the bombings. There was/is something about Bostonians (just as people from Minneapolis are different, from say, Chicago — that brand of “Minnesota nice” which I would argue is more “Minnesota passive/aggressive”. Bostonians, on the other hand, are very upfront, brutally honest, and tell you like it is).

  • Fred Garvin

    Messed with the wrong city?
    Scores ran from the finish line. MILLIONS cowering in their own houses? Boat owner and other homeowners can’t get a handgun permit? ONLY when the lock down is ended is the surviving suspect caught by an unarmed civilian?
    Sounds like they picked the best city to create terror.