Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Boston Massacre

Suspect 1 and Suspect 2
Okay, is everybody convinced now? We really are at war.
Sometimes it seems like all that other stuff never happened. Not the hostage taking in Iran back under Jimmy Carter. Not the killing of all those Marines in that barracks bombing in Lebanon during the Reagan years. Not the hijacking of the Achille Lauro and the murder of poor, wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer. Not the first bombing of the World Trade Center or the attack on the USS Cole.
Not even 9/11.
That was 12 years ago — can you believe it?
There’s been a whole lot of other stuff since then, too, and nobody wants to think about those, either.
Fort Hood? Wasn’t that some kind of workplace incident? A guy went postal or something. Just where is Fort Hood, anyway?
Oh, we think about Afghanistan, and we argue about Iraq. But those things happened...over there. They were big and expensive, and they ran up the deficit and screwed up the economy, and that’s what really matters, after all.
Airplanes crashing into buildings here at home? Well...we’re not likely to see something really dramatic like that again. So how much damage can anybody really do to us?
Welcome to Boston.
After 9/11 — an enormously complicated undertaking which, despite not achieving all of its objectives, had a stunning impact — I always felt that the template for terrorism on U.S. soil was laid out by the Beltway Snipers. Those were the two Al Qaeda wannabees who carried on a series of random shootings in the Washington, D.C. area. Ten people were killed and three others critically injured.
Low risk. Low cost. High return in creating havoc within a specific region.
Strangely, the approach didn’t take hold, which may be a testament to the effectiveness of our counter-terror and law enforcement resources. At least I’d like to think that’s the case.
In any event, once those two little monsters were caught, the panic around that incident faded as well.
Maybe there’s a weird kind of equanimity in our attitude. At first we’re outraged, so we yell and scream and wave American flags. Church attendance goes up for a week or so. We get all teary-eyed and hold candlelight vigils. And then — as the Bush Administration advised us to do back in 2001 — we go shopping.
And it’s not a matter of party affiliation or ideology. Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal — unless we’re directly effected, by the death of somebody we know or damage to our personal property or consequences to our business — we Americans are amazingly capable of letting the most horrible things wash over us.
Maybe it’s a strength. A virtue.
After each tragedy, we hear calls for calm and patience and perspective and not jumping to conclusions about certain ethnic groups. So where was the wave of vengeance here at home after 9/11? Where were the burning mosques, the blood in the streets?
I can recall one news report about an assault on some unfortunate fellow who was mistaken for Muslim but was really a Sikh. Not to deminish that incident, of course — the guy really was hurt. And yes, there was a ramp-up of FBI surveillance in communities with significant Muslim presence, which no doubt stirred resentment among people who were perfectly innocent.
The most far-reaching legacy of 9/11, at least domestically, was the Patriot Act, which has weakened the bounds of constitutional restraint along a broad spectrum of American life. And, of course, there’s the TSA with its shoeless airport lines, modesty-obliterating x-ray machines, and pat-downs of nuns, children and crippled grandmothers. Not that some crippled granny couldn’t be riding a wheelchair packed with plastique. One must grant the possibility.
The real problem with terrorist incidents seems to be how they screw up the plans of politicians. We’re already hearing anguished cries about how Boston might derail gun-control and immigration reform while raising a popular groundswell on behalf of energy independence and the Keystone Pipeline.
Terrorism also tends to stoke the neuroses of journalists and members of the chattering class in our major media. Take a few minutes to the read a piece in the online journal, Salon, by David Sirota who desperately hopes the Boston bomber turns out to be a white male.
You see, the privileged status white males enjoy guarantees that the focus would remain on the actual perpetrator, with no ancillary guilt cast onto white males in general. On the other hand, should the bomber be a member of some minority, all other members of that group will undoubtedly be rolled into the collective guilt for this dastardly act.

  1. “As we now move into the official Political Aftermath period of the Boston bombing,” Sirota writes, “— the period that will determine the long-term legislative fallout of the atrocity — the dynamics of privilege will undoubtedly influence the nation’s collective reaction to the attacks. That’s because privilege tends to determine: 1) which groups are — and are not — collectively denigrated or targeted for the unlawful actions of individuals; and 2) how big and politically game-changing the overall reaction ends up being.
  2. “This has been most obvious in the context of recent mass shootings. In those awful episodes, a religious or ethnic minority group lacking such privilege would likely be collectively slandered and/or targeted with surveillance or profiling (or worse) if some of its individuals comprised most of the mass shooters. However, white male privilege means white men are not collectively denigrated/targeted for those shootings — even though most come at the hands of white dudes.”
You get the idea.
Sirota is not alone. Such fears obviously account for the early wave of media speculation that Boston was the work of rightwing extremist groups; was a reaction to the burning of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas; or was somehow connected to the Oklahoma City bombing. Never mind that Waco and Oklahoma City occurred way back in the 1990s. Those rightwing extremists have long memories.
It may turn out that the bombing has nothing to do with Al Qaeda. This horror may be connected with grievances nobody has ever even heard about. Of course, the Beltway Snipers were freelance agents, too — just a couple of sad sacks nurturing dreams of martyrdom. But then, a lot of people have their own reasons for wanting to bring down the Great Satan. Global jihad is less an organized movement than a state of mind.
Count on this, though: Life will go on. For better or worse. And so will politics.
May God take the dead of this Boston Massacre to his bosom, heal the injured, and give comfort to their families and all the people whose lives were touched.
And may right prevail.
Here’s the link to David Sirota’s mind-numbing rant in Slate...
Here’s one to a piece in American Thinker about wild media speculations...
And to the media review site, MEDIAITE, which has a nice little slideshow on “The 10 Absolute Worst Media Reactions to the Boston Marathon Bombings”...

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