Headline: "London Marathon To Proceed After Boston Bombings"
Suggested sub-headline: Of Course
Of course it will. These are Britons. These are role models on this matter (as on some other matters). Look at them. Observe their older culture. They know what to do, how to defy, how to proceed.
Do you know of the Aldershot bombing of 1972 (seven killed, 19 injured)? The Birmingham pub bombings of 1974 (21 killed, 182 injured)? The Guildford pub bombings of 1974 (four soldiers and one civilian killed)? What about the bombing of Harrods during Christmas-shopping season in 1983 (six killed, 90 injured)? Or the barracks bombing at the Royal Marines School of Music in 1989 (11 Marines killed, 22 injured)?
Or the bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton?
That last one targeted the elected prime minister of the United Kingdom on Oct. 12, 1984. It sent one dignitary tumbling from the seventh floor to the fifth. (He survived.) It happened at 2:54 a.m., narrowly missed Margaret Thatcher and her husband, Denis, and prompted this statement from the Provisional Irish Republican Army perpetrators: "Today we were unlucky but remember, we only have to be lucky once."
And while many lucid citizens would dislike the idea that the recently departed Margaret Thatcher exemplified one of their finest aspects, she did just that in her speech at the conservative party conference that morning at 9:30, the one that included the deathless line: "All attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail." She mourned the five dead and 34 injured, thanked the firefighters, police, emergency workers, nurses and doctors, and then she said, "Now it must be business as usual. We must go on to discuss the things we have talked about during this conference, one or two matters of foreign affairs and after that, two subjects I have selected for special consideration: unemployment and the miners' strike."
To us, it sounds different. It feels different. It seems callous except that it seems courageous, but only after a good think. And if you're in the United Kingdom during an upswell of terrorism, as in 2007 when a twin summertime threat involved a bomb-laden car near Trafalgar Square and a Jeep Cherokee driven into the glass doors of the Glasgow airport, the air around the country does seem calm, not so afraid, maybe even steely. They have been here before. You will not make them cower.
Here are people who, in addition to all the bombings above and more, had (and have) ancestors who resolved to maintain as much normal life as possible in 1940-41 while planes bombed for 267 days and nights. Here are big-event people who, as the sports minister Hugh Robertson told the BBC, "have enormous experience of doing this, and we have some of the best professionals anywhere in the world. As he said, "There has been a terrorism threat every day of my adult life in London -- first through Republicanism, then through international terrorism."
Among the quacky little things Americans sometimes say while abroad, I never heard one any quackier than a tourist in London who referred to the 2005 London subway bombings as a "wake-up call." Oh, goodness. Wake-up came long, long, long ago. In the week after those bombings that killed 52 and injured 700, the blogger extraordinaire Andrew Sullivan tapped his then-21 years in each of the United Kingdom and the United States -- and his love for both -- for a Time magazine essay entitled, "The Quiet Power of the Stoic."
"Americans often react to crises with action and emotion," he wrote. "They see a problem and want to fix it. Brits' reflexive instinct at such times is often calm and steady endurance." One friend had emailed him that day: "Most of us are just going to go to the pub until the traffic has died down. It's not callousness or indifference to carry on as normal; it's quiet defiance." Another: "The pubs are all packed out, people sipping their pints. Nice one, al Qaeda: You profess to be from a teetotaling religion, and you've given the pub trade a massive midweek boost."
As Sullivan asserted then, we'll probably never locate "complete" victory against the vileness. Free societies, even one as adept at counterterrorism as the United Kingdom, will never stop all the lunatics who want to blow up themselves and others. "And so stoicism matters," he wrote then.
Historically, the United States remains new at this hardness even as it did suffer the most graphic case in history 11 years and seven months ago (after which Queen Elizabeth II had the palace guards play "The Star-Spangled Banner"). The air here -- and the Twitter feeds here -- still can seem frantic. This remains a place where the question about London proceeding just after Boston might remain viable.
London remains a place where the marathon will proceed on Sunday. Its everyday citizens have earned their resolve through time. Maybe 36,000 runners will go. A 30-second silence for Boston will mark each of the three official starts. Many runners will wear black ribbons. The Olympic double-gold medalist Mo Farah will run without fear. Something might happen. Probably nothing will. Runners will run partly in defiance. Prince Harry will make the presentations to the winners. The famed British stoicism is a strand of greatness in a wretched world, but the 2013 London Marathon will not mark that greatness. It will sustain it.