The Droz Report, No. 9

Boom. Boston goes boom

Why I have no prayers for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing

Photo by The Phantom Photographer; image manipulation by Geoffrey Dow.
Boston Marathon bombing aftermath
Detail of the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, Monday 15 April 2013. Image via @brm90, through New York Daily News.

April 16, 2013, OTTAWA — I know no more than you do as I type this, and maybe less; I listened mostly to a Montreal sports station's Habs pre-game show on the way back from Montreal (where even "The home of the Habs!") felt compelled to offer coverage) and have only glanced at the headlines since I got home.

Despite that, I have long since had more than my fill of the (no doubt heartfelt) platitudes — the "My heart goes to ..." and "My prayers are with those who ..." — that have been clogging my Twitter and Facebook feeds ever since.

Yes, for those maimed and killed, it was a tragedy; for those who witnessed the carnage or lost a loved one, a monstrous trauma. It was a terrible crime and it shouldn't have happened.

If you were there, or you live in Boston, or you know people who were, or do, go ahead and share your pain; it's yours and you have every right. But the rest of us should shut the fuck up and see what we can do towards putting an end to all violence, everywhere. Especially to that committed by our own elected governments.

I've never been to Boston and I don't know anyone who lives there. On a gut-level, the bombs that exploded at the Boston Marathon finish line mean no more to me than do the details of the latest wedding party blown to bits in Afghanistan. Sorry, "wedding party" makes it sound like a display case was knocked over.

The deaths and injuries at Boston Marathon mean no more and no less to me than the 30 people killed (by "mistake"!) at a wedding party in Afghanistan the other day.

I've never been to Afghanistan, either.

Well no. I feel worse about those killed in Afghanistan, because they were killed by people who are supposedly on my side — the Good Guys, the Democratic West. If I were the type to emote my prayers on the internet, it would be towards the victims of our violence that those prayers would be winging.

It's the parochial, the frankly tribal nature of the flood of tweets and posts that bothers me most. The people whose social networks I share tend to be — roughly — "like me": left-of-centre, literate, secular; anti-war, pro-human rights and anti-global warming.

But when something ugly hits close to home, most of us fall back upon that old tribal saw: That which affects me personally, matters more.

I know, I know. It is natural to care more about our own children than those of another, to feel more for the familiar than the strange, the near than the far.

It's also natural to die around the age of 35, with maybe seven teeth loosely dangling from our lower jaw.

Do you remember 9/11? No, not that 9/11, the other one! Yeah, the World Trade Centre: our 9/11.

I was working the afternoon shift in those days, and so was home to to catch the 2nd plane hit the World Trade Centre on live television. Not long after, my mum called.

When I heard her voice I expected her to be in or near tears. My mother cries easily and has powers of empathy that sometimes baffle me.

But her voice that morning was pragmatic and cold. "Boy!" she said, "The chickens have really come home to roost!"

Neither of us had (or have) any truck with Osama bin Laden and his gang of Wahhabi thugs, but we agreed there was a metric tonne of truth in the basic complaint behind Al-Qaeda's savagery.

The Saudi (and other) Arab governments were (and are) hideously corrupt and those terror- and torture-based regimes are kept in power at least in part through the force of American arms.

I digress, but to a point: Though I had acquaintances who lived in New York, and though I had visited (and loved!) the city, and though I felt as if, through the miracle of cinema and literature, that I knew it too — despite all that, 9/11 was still a disaster — a crime — as abstract to me then as any number of Afghan or Pakistani slaughters are today.

On a visceral level, if I don't know you personally, I don't care about your pain.

Is there something lacking in my soul, that my primary reaction to the Boston Marathon bombings was essentially forensic?

Who did it? Why did they do it?

Were the bombers Americans or foreigners? Muslim fundamentalists, libertarians or just plain crazy? Most important, to my cold-blooded self, what will be the repercussions?

Whoever was behind the attack, Monday will surely go down as a great day for the Security Industrial Complex.

Will it be enough to completely tighten the screws on Liberty in the U.S.A? At the very least, Americans can look forward to more cops, more CCTV and lots more arbitrary stops, searches and seizures. (And so, I fear, will those of us north of the border.)

And if the bombers do turn out to have been foreigners, what kind of added ammunition will that give to those already pushing hard for war against Syria, or Iran, or North Korea, or Venezuela ... From the point of view of Lockheed Martin or Academi (once known as Blackwater), what's not to like?

Yes, it's terrible that people just out for a day of running and/or watching other people run were exploded by sociopaths. As I said at the outset, for the people involved, it's a fucking tragedy and a brutal crime. And for the rest of us, it might too easily be a harbinger of worse tragedies, and worse crimes — more often than not, committed by us — to come.

And so it is that I can't bring myself to tweet "my prayers" or my "best wishes" to people I don't know in Boston, not if I can't be bothered to do the exact same thing on behalf of victims of mass violence everywhere else in the world as well.

Spread the word!

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.