Some thoughts on the Boston Bombings:
You tell yourself that what you are seeing on the television isn’t real, that it’s an image from a movie. Yet, you’ve seen it all before, on smaller and bigger scales. The Boston Bombings on April 15, 2013, Patriots Day, is just another example of our existence in a world where information comes to us as events unfold, in “real” time. Tomorrow you will go and teach a class that is examining the European Enlightenment, and right now you can’t see the point of teaching on that or any subject.
I happen to be reading Albert Camus’s writings on Algeria at the moment, and not surprisingly, he talks a great deal about terrorist attacks. Camus condemns violence on any and all fronts, even as a reaction from those who have been victims of violence. Camus should know, he is an Algerian, and his mother never left Algeria. Camus’s The Algerian Chronicles, just published by Belknap Harvard, reprints and re-translates Camus’s long 1958 series of articles, breaking his long and infamous silence. The Algerian Chronicles is perhaps more relevant today than it was in 1958.
To say that you feel anger is an understatement. In fact, what you feel is enraged, and the thing you most want to do is strike out at the people responsible for this cowardly act. You want, in your heart of hearts, to answer violence with violence. But you tell yourself over and over that you are a civilized man, that answering violence with violence will solve nothing. So, you daydream about the things your civilized mentality won’t allow you to do.
The amount of misinformation put out by the various outlets of the mass media, the New York Post and CNN, to name only two, is astounding. How are we to know what to believe? When I came home from campus that Monday I found my wife watching the news. I asked her if we would not be better to just turn it off since the bombings happened only an hour or so before, so most of the information we were now getting would be suspect at best. She agreed about the suspect nature of the news, but didn’t make a move to switch off the television. After about ten minutes I tried to get my mind on something else. The only thing the networks were showing was the actual blasts again and again, as if they were on some perverted, continuous loop meant to slowly (or not so slowly) drive the viewer into a state of despair. I was sick of watching the blasts and hearing the screams so I took refuge between the pages of a novel I also happened to be reading at the time.
Later, when this tragic event will commemorate its first, second, or twentieth anniversary you will remember how you felt and the anger that welled up inside you, sticky and rotting. You may never be able to travel to Boston, only fifty miles to the south, with your family again without feeling some sense of insecurity, of vulnerability. Your anger will not dissipate, but continue to reside deep in the roots of your being, festering and slowly growing into a tightly knotted appendage, threatening your ability to connect with other people.
When Suspect number 2 was finally captured it seemed like not only Boston, but New England breathed a sigh of relief. But his capture somehow left me unsatisfied. The boy (he is 19, we are informed, still a boy, still young) was discovered hiding in a boat that had been winterized with shrink-wrap. It was unclear if he had been shot, and thus lay there mortally wounded. Information in the 21st Century comes quick and fast. But perhaps the most interesting thing of all (if we can use the phrase “interesting” following such a horrific event) is the fact that Suspect number 1 was not allowed to be buried anywhere.
Deny him! Don’t give him a place in the ground, especially in the state where he committed such a heinous act. His religion dictates that his body be given certain burial rites, but again I say deny him those rights just as he denied those who were killed and injured the right to attend a sporting event.
We are indeed living in an age of terror. But this will also be our generation’s defining moment. That is, how we finally come to grips with the hatred and the religious inspired demented mindset that somehow justifies the killing of innocent lives in the name of some non-existent god will say more about us than the killers. I don’t think these acts of terror having anything to do with “them” hating or resenting “our” freedom. Instead, I believe that it has everything to do with the media-produced glory and fame that comes with killing.
We may wake up one day to find that all of this (life) was just a nightmare.