Explosions. Screams. Carnage. It was a horrible sight, even through pictures and blurbs.
I’m writing, of course, about the bombings in Iraq.
You assumed I was writing about the bombings in Boston.
Every time there is an abnormal American death — that is, usually the death of a white, middle-class person, children, or anyone else who is not a threat to the system — we as a society seem to lose our collective mind over it. I am not saying that an outpour of sympathy or empathetic gestures is tantamount to “losing one’s mind.” It’s natural to have an intense emotional reaction to horrific scenes. But when the media sensationalizes it for ratings, the public eats it up out of boredom, then we all react as emotionally as a girlfriend upon hearing an incorrect answer to the “does this make me look fat?” question, there is a problem.
Unfortunately, these things happen all the time. That doesn’t justify or excuse them, per se, but it also does not make them as exceptional or rare as we’d like to believe. That we choose to include only the tragedies that harm people society deems “innocent” — that is, not gang members, the homeless, the impoverished, or, more troubling, people in other countries — is borderline psychotic. On top of that, you have the blatant double-think (Orwellian term for cognitive dissonance) required to maintain this overt bigotry while simultaneously exalting one’s self for being a righteous, altruistic humanitarian. It is precisely this type of thinking that leads to various atrocities.
I was raised Jewish. I took years of Sunday school and “learned” about the Holocaust. It was clear even then that my “teachings” were pure propaganda, meant to convince me the world hated Jews so that we would band together, marry each other, make Jewish kids, and continue the tradition and so on. (Birthright is the adult extension of this.) However, the take-home lesson for me was not anti-Semitism; it was the powerful effect of conformity, obedience, and tribal bigotry.
We ask now, horrified, “How could something like the Holocaust happen?” “Why didn’t anybody do anything?” And so on and so forth. Well, I have bad news for you guys: if we were all living in 1930’s Germany right now, most of you would be Nazis. Sorry! Didn’t mean to pop your bubble of self-righteousness. But it’s true. Germans weren’t inherently insane people. They were merely people reacting to their environment. It’s always more muddy than the historical snap shot makes it seem. Also, why would the U.S. or any other global force intervene to “help”? For one, we as a society clearly don’t truly make an effort to show sympathy toward overseas atrocities and when we do, it’s usually exploited as a pretext for some invasion the government wanted to carry out any way to increase its stranglehold on the global economy. (World War II was no exception.)
The same principle is true here. Everyone is writing condolence letters to Boston marathoners on the SAME DAY a week-long series of bombings in Iraq continued and murdered over 30 people and injured over 150. I’m not commenting on the political situation in Iraq. I know nothing about it. I also know nothing about Syria or Libya, but I do know that I saw precisely zero people send their “hearts” to the families of those victims. While we don’t know the motivations of the bombings in Boston, what we do know is that we clearly have an irrational bias toward Americans — or, more specifically, those that the media claims are innocent citizens — that clouds our perspective. If that’s true, what are the logical extensions of that bias? What other things might we not be looking at objectively? Is objectivity the goal? If not, then who are we to judge racists? What is our role in the world? What impacts do our actions have beyond what we can see directly?
These are questions I would like to see asked and discussed. It sickens me when something as horrific as mass murder occurs and is then co-opted by the (social) media for their own nefarious motives. Tragedy sells tickets. It’s sad, but true. What can WE do to change that? Can we stop looking at the horror? Maybe victims don’t WANT to be in your thoughts and prayers. Maybe they want to be left alone. Maybe losing a family member is hard enough already and they don’t need it confounded by a sudden rush to infamy?
I don’t know. I don’t have answers. Violence is fucking tragic. But I think it’s time we started looking for the more subtle forms of violence inherent in our everyday lives since we can actually control those. Maybe that will have a chaotic effect and create ripples of peace. Saying, “I don’t hurt anyone” is the most under-inspected, ludicrous statement of self-righteousness floating around today. I might not punch people in the face or blow up long distance runners, but I participate in an political-economic system that is certainly destructive, in many ways. Violence is not always as blatant as a school shooting.
I’m not original for saying this, but it is a message I think bears repeating, at least until enough beacons are lit.
Much love to all.