What if...?

The message in the bomb scare:
SUPPOSE FOR a moment that the harmless Lite-Brites that threw Boston into such pandemonium last week hadn't been so harmless after all. Suppose that the 38 illuminated devices attached to highway overpasses and other public spots around the city hadn't been "guerrilla art" intended to promote an animated show on cable TV, but the terrorist bombs that authorities at first feared they were. Suppose the individuals behind this operation in Boston and nine other cities had been devotees not of "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," an inane cartoon about talking fast food, but of Al Qaeda and its violent, totalitarian version of Islam.
Suppose for a minute Al Qaeda hires an army of longhaired hippies across the country to set up boxes that look like lightbrites! If that were true, why all sorts of things might turn out to be da bomb:
In the wake of last week's bomb scare, public discussion seemed to divide into two camps: those who were enraged at the perpetrators of the stunt , and those who mocked city officials for overreacting hysterically to something many younger residents knew at once was a marketing gimmick. But the police weren't wrong not to take any chances; even before 9/11, thousands of people around the world wound up in early graves because something that appeared to be innocuous -- a suitcase, a toy, a man's bulky coat, a yellow Ryder rental truck -- had turned out to be a terrorist's bomb.

Still: If public safety depends on a timely and effective police response to the appearance of every suspicious object, the public had better not count on being very safe. Spotting a bomb in time to defuse it is the last line of defense against a terrorist attack -- the one we're left with when everything else has failed, or when nothing else has been done. ...

It is too easy to focus government attention on specific objects -- shoes and liquids at the airport, knives and metal objects at the entrance to public buildings, mysterious Lite-Brites on the undersides of bridges. It is tougher to keep a sustained focus on human beings who share certain beliefs, a form of surveillance from which most Americans instinctively recoil. Ideological and religious profiling goes against our civil-liberties grain. Infiltrating Islamic groups, keeping tabs on mosques, applying heightened scrutiny to Muslims in order to track the extremists among them -- we find such activities highly distasteful, awkward, even un-American.
Wonderful. Since the litebrights turned out to be lightbrites and not bombs, we just might need to do some distasteful and un-American things to Muslims. Because, you never know. You just never know.