For the sake of posterity, on Monday, April 15th, Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts and the day I needed to resubmit my tax payment (for the largest tax I’ve ever owed, which bounced on first attempt due to lack of funds in my checking account), 2 maybe 3 “explosions” occurred in downtown Boston near the Boston Marathon finishing line, injuring a bunch of people and killing a few. That’s all I knew on Monday, but of course further investigation has uncovered that these explosions were Improvised Explosive Devices, i.e., home-made bombs, and that more than 170 people were injured and 3 (so far) have died from the numerous sharp metal bits included with the bombs.
This Boston bombing and the news handling of it has elicited a complex mix of emotions and reactions from me. It is tragic and it happened in my adopted hometown, so it feels very sad and in a way personal, even though I didn’t know any of the victims. My heart goes out to those who were hurt and their family and friends. On the other hand, I am feeling a lot of anger at the news people and politicians, many of whom seem to be pumping fists and fears, trying to make this into another “9/11” style world-changing tragedy. And I feel proud of my city, proud of my friends and fellow Bostonians who aren’t going to let that happen.
To all those directly impacted by these violent and unprovoked attacks, I send my sympathy and support.
To those who are not directly impacted, I want to say, OK, it was sad for a few days, please continue to support the victims, but otherwise move on. Let the justice department do their job and find the perpetrators, let the hospitals care for the injured – nothing is needed from you, there are other things going on, just move on.
[Edit – this was written before the events of April 18-19 (the car-jacking, gun-fights and shelter-in-place order) in reaction to the constant news-coverage and national obsession, not intended to remove sympathy, but desiring of a focus-shift to free the victims, police, city from the glaring spotlight and to give attention to other important events in our complex world. For my reaction to more recent events, see We Are One Boston post.]
I wish it weren’t this way, really, truly, but this is a normal part of the existing world order. The idea of 180ish people injured with < 10 fatalities as being world-changing is absurd in today’s day and age. Far more people are dying from car accidents, guns, cancer, heart disease and other causes than from explosions. And we can no longer feign ignorance about the worldwide violence and death from other preventable causes (e.g., wars, poor nutrition or toxic chemical dumping).
I saw The Onion article “This What World Like Now” and it matched with a conversation I’d had the night of the bombings with my friend Tarish – the world really is this way. I usually find The Onion hilarious, but this was too true.
What was making me angry from the very first day, was the journalists who kept squawking variations on the “is there a foreign involvement” or “is it true you have a foreign suspect” – like it fucking matters if it was foreign or domestic! Who fucking cares?, I wanted to shout at them. It was a horrific act, in what way would it be better or worse if it was a foreigner? What, so we can start another useless war and kill some innocent [brown-skinned] people in a country halfway around the world?
And then to hear the president and various public officials using sugar-coated revenge fantasy language about “bringing the full weight” of the justice system down upon the perpetrators was upsetting. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely want the perpetrators found and stopped, but I’m tired of this dramatic framing – the same crap we heard after the tragedy of 9/11/01 which led to horrible atrocities committed by our government in our name, resulting in many thousands of dead (many of whom were, like our Boston Marathon spectators, innocent civilians).
I’m sick of the cycle of violence – of all the war-mongering, soldiers sent to unnecessary wars, ordered to fight and kill until they develop psychoses or commit suicide, of violence perpetrated by gun-nuts or even police against our own citizens, of the for-profit prison-industrial complex, which incentivizes longer sentences and abuse. I’m sick that the US derails international arms treaties and environmental treaties, as if other countries, especially poor countries, don’t matter. as if our exports of weapons and pollution don’t negatively impact the world.
I don’t want to hear our president (who personally controls the most powerful violent force in the world) talking about how we are all “Americans” today (by which he means US-only Americans), when he’s failed to hold anyone accountable for the torture done by US government employees, when our kidnap & torture facility remains open at Guantanamo Bay, when our country supplies various explosive devices to many other countries (and non-government groups), when we incarcerate the whistle blower Bradley Manning who exposed the corruption and excessive violence of our wars abroad, and when we’re still engaged in numerous foreign violent conflicts, especially an ill-advised, predictably futile and seemingly endless war in Afghanistan (see the British invasion, see the Russian invasion, see the USA invasion – epic failure redux).
It’s the hypocrisy that gets me. If our government officials truly cared about peace, they’d end wars, restrict arms trading, invest in non-lethal weapon technology and cut our military to proper defensive size (probably balancing our budget in the process). “Hunting perpetrators” sounds like an excuse for more violence to me, “collateral damage” (code for “innocent civilians”!) be damned. Isn’t that what we did after 9/11/01? And didn’t that lead to more world violence? Oh, yes.
And then I heard the tail end of this NPR On Point show, “Bostonians Reflect on the Marathon Bombings” with Dennis Lehane and Amanda Palmer (two famous Bostonians). The talked about how Boston is a resilient city and we’re going back to normal and we’re not going to over-react. And Amanda talked about how Obama should’ve said We are all human beings (not just Americans), and my heart got big. I thought to myself, this is the city that I fell in love with on my first visit in 1996, this old and simultaneously modern city which eminated queerness, strength and flexibility. The wisps of my despair were blown away and I had hope again – this is my chosen city, this is my home and we will get through it together. I’m not alone in thinking we need to carry on, without increasing so-called “security” and surveillance. Boston is chock-full of thoughtful non-impulsive gems of human beings.
As I was writing this last bit, I started listening to the beginning of the On Point show online and Dennis says (in regards to the identity/intention of the perpetrators), “who cares? whatever your reasoning is, it’s paltry and pathetic and I’m not really interested, what you did was to attack innocent people… advancing your cause isn’t gonna happen … we’re not going to remotely change who we are”. Right on, my Boston brother.
I’m no fan of fandom or location-specific allegiances (my freak flock is spread far and wide), but for right now, in my heart and mind, Boston is absolutely #1.