Dear Dirty America


Boston Bombings: Expanding Our Disdain For Violence Everywhere

April 19
11:00 2013

Savage Opportunist

There is very little solace to be had on nights like these. There’s really no reason for someone like me to write about the Boston bombings. Every major and minor news network and Twitter account flooded, and are still flooding the Internet with images, quotes, captions, and mindless commentary about what happened at the marathon earlier today.

Yet, to risk looking like an opportunist (while the traffic is still there) and writing about the Boston fiasco, I have things to say, and I’ll just have to write them. But the fear to be clumped in with the savage reporting and promotion of “graphic” photos, peddled as such to draw more attention to them, remains.

Patton Oswalt wrote a short piece that has been re-posted probably ten thousand times on Facebook. He claims that even though we saw evil and darkness in Boston today, the good in people is overwhelmingly apparent and much stronger. But is it true? It sounds good, and it’s a bit of an uplift, yet it still rings hollow to me.

When I think about what happened at Boston, and the bloody images that will be with me for some time, I think of all the other elements and levels of ‘evil’ that swirl and propagate in places both likely and unsuspected.

Our president shakes his head at the unnecessary, repulsive violence. Those responsible will feel “the full weight of justice,” he said, yet tomorrow or the next day he’ll order a Tomahawk missile strike on a tiny village in Yemen that’ll wipe out thirty-five women and children. They didn’t even have to leave their modest dwellings to experience that explosion. They simply had to sit and wait. It came to them. And the justice they received could not be weighed.

When that man speaks, the hypocrisy I feel is a low, deep burning sensation in what seems to be the pit of my stomach. And it grows, almost pulsates into a bigger area of discomfort. I can bury it after the president finishes speaking, but it rises again when I see on every social media site the overwhelming concern for the people affected by the blast in Boston, and I wonder where they were, and where were their digital outcries against the blasts and explosions that have and continue to terrorize people across the world, and in our names.

One tragedy is real and in our faces. The other tragedies of the world are abstractions, even if they are carried out by our government and military. Even if we are responsible for them. We certainly can’t stop all the violence in the world, but our nation could make a major difference by stopping its role in arming and invading sovereign countries.

The calm, soothing demeanor of a psychopath

It’s almost cliche by now to take this stance, but it’s prevalent and it’s staring us right in the face. Why does it seem so impossible to get Americans to loathe the unnecessary violence toward people in, say, Pakistan, who have never even seen a plane before, some of them, yet are now all too familiar with the zipping fiberglass birds that seem to fire missiles at random targets.

It is all of this that I think of when Patton Oswalt writes about how evil is vastly outdone by good. I tend to believe him, but sometimes it seems we’re perceiving ‘good’ to be more widespread than it really is. Or, we’re not identifying ‘evil’ where we should. Our president, his predecessors, and all their companions and cohorts are what? Good? To be able to kill with immunity, and to cause devastating mass casualties without repercussion. What is that? Should that not be condemned? It’s frightening to accept that stance, yet it is a reality.

What kind of twisted, satirical world do we live in when we feel comfort from our leader, with his gnarly past and current policies and actions? He looks and dresses corporate. He’s got a beautiful family. He speaks better than the last guy. He steps off Air Force One with unmatched grace. I know. Does that make him trustworthy and good? Is that all it is? Am I crazy to disregard any sadness he displays about violence toward children and innocent people?

…Aurora. Sandy Hook. Boston…. His sensitive words feel veiled, as if uttered from the calm demeanor of a psychopath who seems unaware of his past record of brutality.

Violence is shocking, no matter where it happens. It is senseless no matter from what source, legitimate or not. It is life changing. It shatters everybody’s sense of safety. The important thing would be to extend our compassion and concern to a global level, where pain is pain, suffering is suffering, and violence, no matter who is causing it, is unwelcome and baseless.

Children are children everywhere. Children in Connecticut are not more sacred than those in Gaza. The loss of children in Norway is not more traumatic than in Afghanistan.

As my Army Ranger friend tells me, after serving in Vietnam, he’s finally come to the conclusion that pacifism is the only way forward. “When you aim that gun and pull the trigger,” he says, “you are suddenly no better than what you are trying to stamp out. You’ve lowered yourself to being a killer, too.”

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