All Today’s Victims

Boston Marathon BombI always have a strange and some would say heartless view of tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombing. It is not that I am not engaged by such events. Rather, it is that I feel that it is wrong to elevate such events above the tragedy that we allow day after day. If this is like most days, 25 people were murdered throughout the country. Countless others were badly injured because of violent acts. I don’t think any of these are more or less tragic, although obviously I would if any of them directly affected me. If there is anything good about such events, it is that it reminds me (at least) of all the people harmed every day. Unfortunately, especially after Sandy Hook, I have come to think that as a nation, our only response will be to make matters worse.

Of course, I am interested in what is going on. One or more people went to great lengths to kill three people and injure at least 140 more. And unlike most murders, which are crimes of overwrought passions, a crime such as this is not only premeditated, but carefully calculated. It is hard to imagine it being the result of anything but that bizarre ability that people have to place ideology (politics, religion, whatever) above human life. I think such people must justify it by thinking that they are willing to die for their “cause” so it is all right to kill for it. Of course, such people never die for their causes willingly. That’s why people like Thich Quang Duc are so remarkable: because they are so rare.

But I don’t know, of course. The whole thing could just be the result of some disaffected teens who thought that detonating some bombs and killing some people would be cool. That’s just the point: other than the perpetrators, no one knows at this point. But that didn’t stop the news of the day after 3:00 pm from being made up almost exclusively with much wringing of hands by reporters and pundits. I managed to see one press conference which explained in great detail that the authorities don’t know anything and can’t comment on all the things they don’t know.

As I write this, I’m interested why someone would do such a thing. But when it is finally sorted out, I doubt it will be very edifying. I suspect that it will come down to some group of people who were mad about something that had nothing to do with the Boston Marathon, much less any of the people who were harmed. There never is a good reason why we kill each other. It’s always some variation on, “She slept with my husband.” It’s all just a big property rights conflict. But there is something about the wringing of hands and looking for simple reasons for pointless acts that strikes me as unsavory.

I think it gets much easier on the TV news staff to have such tragedies. It is 12 hours after the bombing, and other than a better casualty count, we don’t know any more. Yet cable news has been jawing away that whole time. And I suppose I find the parts where they say that their hearts go out to the victims the hardest to stomach. I just don’t buy it—not any more than if they said their hearts went out to all the other victims today.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “All Today’s Victims

  1. I don’t find your view heartless (although the media coverage of such events often is.)

    Sometimes, when the bad guys are found, what they reveal is interesting, sometimes it isn’t. Timothy McVeigh and his collaborator (his name escapes me) shed light on a homegrown radical anti-government movement most people were unaware of. I lived in Portland and was poor in the 1990s (I’m poor now, but I live elsewhere) so I had skinhead co-workers (back the Portland was a Mecca for such types), and man did I hear their speeches. So the McVeigh/Michigan Militia types weren’t foreign to me, but they were to most.

    (I fondly remember the night at the convenience store where my skinhead co-worker was huddled in a corner, howling in bad-tooth pain, and was helped by an off-duty nurse from the nearby hospital. The nurse was Black, which must have been gall and wormwood to the spirit of the skinhead.)

    Bin Laden illustrated, to those who were willing to see it, the blowback effects of American meddling in world affairs. A conservative friend, learning about our history of arming fanatics as surrogate warriors in Afghanistan for the first time, commented "whenever we arm goons for our political purposes it never ends well." No, it doesn’t.

    In both cases you saw noxious effects of our political culture, and that was enlightening although most people chose to ignore it. Few wanted to hear that McVeigh was the product of fear-baiting right-wing talking points, and few wanted to hear that we’d created bin Laden and thousands like him. Just as no-one wanted to examine the motivations of the racist who gunned down worshippers in a Wisconsin Sikh temple last year.

    When a right-wing madman murdered scores of teenagers at a liberal camp in Sweden last year, all of Scandinavia took at least a cursory look at the kind of anti-immigrant rhetoric which has become more prevalent there in recent years. Not everybody came to the same conclusions, but the idea that political culture contributed to the murders was at least debated openly.

    Whatever the deluded motivations of these psychotics are, it’s worth asking how our society produced them, and not just shaking our heads and "tightening security." Remember Chris Hitchens and others arguing, in 2001, that analyzing the motivations of terrorists was akin to sympathizing with them? Well, scientists researching the causes of cancer don’t sympathize with cancer cells. They’re trying to eliminate them. Same deal here.

  2. @JMF – Well stated. I too was in Portland at that time. And around a lot of related loons: libertarians. I was away from them all by the time of the bombing, so I don’t know what effect it had on them. But before, I remember a lot of fatuous talk about Ruby Ridge and Waco.

    I wonder about whether people who do bombings like this for political reasons are really psychopaths. I think they understand and care about right and wrong. They just elevate ideology above human life. And that is really a bigger problem–but a more solvable one.

    On an unrelated note: I think that [i]Once Upon a Time in the West[/i] will arrive tomorrow.

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