AP Photo/Boston Globe, John Tlumacki (via Boston University)
This is a sad time for the nation, but something that deserves deliberation. It’s still early in the scheme of things given that the party responsible has yet to be found, but some basic reflection is warranted.
First, we still have no idea who or what group did this. Yes, it looks like the work of a terrorist organization, or (the media cause celebre these days) the “lone wolf” who wanted to make a big splash killing a bunch of American citizens enjoying one of the few public events worth celebrating these days. News reports are full of speculation, both by “experts” and people within the government, about whether this was the result of domestic or foreign elements. Not that it really matters; a bombing that rips apart people at a public gathering (including murdering an eight-year-old boy) is a horrific act no matter who perpetrated it. Does it really matter at this point whether it was an al-Qaeda cell or some “patriot” type obsessed with the federal government? An act of terror is an act of terror. There will be plenty of time in the next week to get to the bottom of who was responsible. What’s important at this point is to see why a society such as ours (with all the “freedom” and “greatness” and so on) keeps enduring such horrific acts. Why are such events as these, and others such as Newtown and Aurora, happening with such regularity? Could it possibly be because of societal breakdown, because of the endless world-wide warfare with no point, because the elite criminals of the last decade (both on Wall Street and within the government) have not been held accountable while we imprison massive amounts of regular people? Just as it’s irresponsible to place blame before the evidence comes in, it’s not good to assign it to any particular measure of society. But there is no question that ours is a society at its breaking point. These types of things don’t usually happen in healthy societies (Anders Breivik may beg to differ, but the Norwegian government handled that pretty well, all things considered). What is it about ours that causes such horrific crimes? Whether it’s a foreign terrorist organization making a statement about the massive bombing campaigns that are part and parcel of US foreign policy or a domestic terrorist making a statement about the Federal Reserve’s looting of the economy, the fact still remains that this person saw no other recourse than to act out in such a terrifying, destructive way. This could be the result of mental illness, but the fact that such illness was allowed to permeate this individual without any consequence could still point to an overall sick society. It’s a still too early to place blame for this event given that no one has been arrested, but it bears consideration.
The second thing is to watch how the media covers this. What happened in Boston, while a tragedy and sad for everyone involved (and their families), is nothing out of the ordinary for people walking the streets of Baghdad, Kabul, Ramallah, Tel Aviv, Damascus, Beirut, or any of a dozen other places across the world. And yet I haven’t seen much wall-to-wall coverage of the latest car bombing in Afghanistan, have you? This pattern played out similarly in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, which I wrote about at the time. It will be very interesting to see how this tragedy is compared to 9/11 but not to the massive devastation that occurs in other areas of the world on a near-daily basis. This is evidence both of the corporate American mindset in the boardrooms running the show at the media conglomerates as well as the general sense that tragedies are always much worse when they happen to Americans on our soil. Why does the corporate media never center its attention when these type of mass bombing attacks happen in the Middle East or elsewhere?
Again this is not to take away from the very real suffering happening in one of this country’s greatest cities, but to put it in context. It’s still too early, and the grief very palpable, to examine this situation from a societal level too much. But these things should be on everyone’s mind in the days and weeks ahead. What does everyone else think? Is it simply too early for this kind of analysis? Or is this precisely the time, given what we’ve all been through in the last decade? At this point I’m not quite sure, but I have to get my thoughts written down. It seems the only way to deal with these appalling circumstances.