In addition to the horror and revulsion its mindless carnage inspired, the car-bombing Wednesday at a federal building in downtown Oklahoma City reminds Americans of some lessons they should have learned from the 1993 World Trade Center in New York City.
One of those lessons is that there is still no shortage of terrorists and other sick minds willing to commit mass murder to further a cause or only to inflate their own feeling of self-importance. Such minds are seldom deterred by the widespread loathing that always follows such cowardly attacks on innocent and unsuspecting victims, including chil-dren.Another lesson involves the need to stiffen security at various public facilities without turning America into a police state. Even in the most repressive dictatorships, there is no foolproof defense against terrorism or other forms of indiscriminate violence. The United States will be particularly vulnerable as long as it remains as open and free as it should.
Likewise, the Oklahoma City bombing should remind other cities of the continuing need to formulate workable plans for evacuating casualties, then update those plans regularly.
The selection of Oklahoma City as the latest target shows the threat is not limited just to the biggest and most prominent population centers. Other communities should keep in mind the tendency of vile episodes like the one this week to inspire copy-cats and encourage the perpetrators to think they can get away with it again.
Though car-bombing smacks of the Arab world and other parts of the Middle East, it would be premature and unfair to draw any conclusions from that fact. Just as enterprising Americans are quick to import progressive goods and services, bloodthirsty Americans can just as readily import what others have to offer by way of viciousness and depravity.
If the bombing outside the federal building was an act of protest against the national government, its perpetrators should know that by killing women and children they have alienated other anti-government demonstrators - such as those who on Wednesday were decrying the tragic siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, on its second anniversary. As the Branch Davidian protesters noted, violence is not the answer but only breeds more violence.
The challenge now is to limit the harm done by the bombing in Oklahoma City. Sadly, the damage extends far beyond that community. To some extent, Americans elsewhere are bound to become at least a little less trusting of each other, a little more suspicious of strangers.
The best response, in addition to a swift and vigorous pursuit of whoever is responsible for the mass murder in Oklahoma City, is to keep calm and refuse to be intimidated. This involves avoiding the extremes of both paranoia and complacency.
It should help to know that the chances of getting killed or hurt in a terrorist attack or some other act of mass violence are still considerably less than the risk of being involved in a car accident or a street crime.