Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Thinking about Boston ... and us

Not that it matters, but I have been consciously resisting the urge to write or comment on the Boston Marathon bombing.  Even when the subject came up in my classes, I fell back on letting students ask questions and express opinions without much input from me, and I avoided this question like the plague:   "Who do you think did it?"

Part of my reticence stems from the fact that I don't have anything particularly profound or challenging to say.  I cringe as some of my liberal friends make the heroism of an undocumented worker into an implicit condemnation of our immigration laws, and I flinch even harder when conspiracy theorists (many of whom are libertarians) tie the bombing to the government's plan to disarm the population.

I shake my head at the News Journal applauding the excess of surveillance in this country as being one of the redeeming features of the incident, and I disagree with Rob Tomoe's well-intentioned political cartoon suggesting this will bring us together.  I cringe when David Sirota pens a column in Salon entitled, "Let's Hope the Boston Marathon Bomber is a White American."

I don't want to write cautionary essays about the government not being allowed to use this incident as precedent for an even greater police state, or raise trite equivalencies about the dead and wounded in Boston as compared to the dead and wounded in US drone attacks in Pakistan or Yemen.

I can't look at the photo of the youngster who died without wanting to hold my grandson close, but I don't want to write about that, either, because--no--I really don't understand that family's pain.

So what in the hell DO I want to write about?

How about this:  Boston reminds us of the potential cost of living in a generally free, generally open society.  There will be more Bostons down the road, as there have been Bostons in the past, and--as terror strikes by individuals and small groups even in the most repressive totalitarian regimes prove--we will never eliminate them completely, even if we give up all our civil liberties in a vain pursuit of complete security.

Nope, that's trite and borders on politicizing a tragic act of terrorism.

How about this, then:  Boston should bring us to the realization that we have so politicized everything in this country that it is virtually impossible to write meaningful prose about the bombing without trivializing it or making those words into a political weapon.  We no longer have an engrained, near unified reaction as "an American people."

We have poll results and partisan politics.  We no longer have a shared definition of what it is to be "an American," and we're not likely to have one any time soon.  Unlike most of my friends on both right and left, I am not yet precisely sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing,

Or maybe this:  Whatever happened (before the 24/7/365 news cycle) we now allow our pundits or regular citizens any time for reflection before comment.

Which, in itself, quietly, is something of tragedy.


Anonymous said...

I've thought about this along the same lines. We have no one to blame but ourselves. Our society is a me, not we society. It's a self centered society focused on my beliefs, feelings and wants. We idolize those who provide no benefit to anyone but their own self idolization. We have a generation who are now in their early 20s who have never lost. They've never kept score and have no idea how to functionally deal with emotions. If there is a problem we have a pill to cover it up. No one has pride in hard work. There is no us in our society. We've never learned self control and self effacing consideration. Because of that we not only act in terrible and tragic ways but we use those incidents as a spring board to our individual soap boxes. These shooting, bombings, stabbings, etc are our own fault. Our society has produced this. We are all culpable.

tom said...

In Steve's lengthy piece about not knowing quite what to write, at least he didn't take the time-honored tack of blaming the young.

Go ahead Anonymous Coward, wring your hands and lament the greed, apathy, narcissism, and lack of a decent work ethic of today's youth.

That will fix everything --

Just like it has in every past generation all the way back to the dawn of civilization.

Delaware Watch said...

How is targeting weddings and homes where it is known children are present for drone attacks tritely equivalent to bombing people at a public event like the Boston Marathon? Both are terrorist acts (one performed by a state and the other by an individual or individuals) and both are equally deplorable.

kavips said...

I'm more worried about missing fertilizer in Waco than I am about pressure cookers in Boston.

I'm not making light of Boston, just wonder if someone is using the new Waco to play us over the old Waco?

In a philosophical way, it shows us we will never be safe. We have no foreign challenges to our power, so we suffer domestic ones, by lone wolfs, people who go bats at a moments notice. When we're at war, the crazies never come out of the woodwork....

I enjoyed your piece. I too can't find the energy to talk about it, probably because of those who have spoken so wrongly of it already....