Yesterday, a series of car bombs killed at least 55 people in Iraq. The bombings are more than likely linked to elections which will be held throughout Iraq in the coming week.
Yesterday, two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, killing 3 people, including an 8 year old boy.
Guess which incident received more press?
I ask this not to be caustic, because both incidents are horrifying and inhumane. I ask this because we need some perspective.
I am normally the queen of overreaction. But for some reason, the news of yesterday’s events in Boston only surprised, where it normally would have terrified me and set my thoughts running in a thousand different directions. Maybe it’s medication I’m on, or maybe I’m becoming desensitized to this type of news (which is, in and of itself, a scary thought). Or maybe I just saw this for what it was: a tragic, yet rare, event.
I was not the only one that felt this way. The Atlantic blog ran a piece asking everyone to “keep calm and carry on.” And they’re right, because the fact of the matter is that far, far, far more people in the United States get killed by guns than by acts of terrorism.
After the Newtown shootings, I wrote this:
Where to begin?
Personally, I am disgusted. Appalled. Yet I’m not completely shocked; as President Obama pointed out, this happens all too often in America lately.
I’m angry, an emotion I feel far too often lately. I am angry at the person who ruined thousands of lives within minutes, at a country that values its right to bear arms more than the lives of its fellow citizens, at a culture that lets nine year olds play ‘Call of Duty,’ at the media for prying for all of the gory details, and somewhere deep down inside, at God for allowing this to happen to CHILDREN.
I am frightened. Life feels more fragile than it has in a long time.
Culturally, I am troubled. We live in a society where heaven forbid we swear on TV or show a little nudity, but it’s completely okay to have ‘Criminal Minds’ on at 8:00 in the evening, show bloody murdered and raped women on ‘CSI’ and ‘The Good Wife,’ and allow violent movies to be rated PG-13 while a few f-bombs get an R rating.
We are an angry and selfish people. We look for instant self-gratification, we don’t want to examine and battle with the bad parts of ourselves and we have no idea how to deal with our pain. I know, because I am one of them.
We look at mental illness as weakness. We stigmatize those who suffer from it. We treat it like a personal fault rather than an illness, and it IS an illness. We don’t have near enough resources to deal with the overwhelming amount of people who need help. We don’t support them. We pity them and categorize them as beyond help and ignore them.
Politically, I am sickened. Awhile ago, after yet another US mass shooting, I read an article about how all Second Amendment jurisprudence on the right to bear arms is based on a complete and utter misreading of American history, largely propagated by the NRA (of course I can’t find the article now). I’m sure you’re not surprised.
There is no common good anymore. Citizenship means nothing. We are individualistic and materialistic. Power and money reign. The needs of those with access to resources trumps the needs of those without. We have a very fucked-up sense of what ‘freedom’ means. This about sums it up:
“But I really want someone who advocates against gun control to balance the scales for me, to go ahead and try to explain to me why the inconvenience suffered by gun owners and prospective gun owners under much tighter restrictions on the purchase of guns and ammunition outweighs the death of children in their classrooms, a place where they’re not just supposed to be safe, but to thrive. Explain to me why their suffering is worse than that of the people who died, and lost family members, in the rampage at Aurora, Colorado, where they were drawn to a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises out of enthusiasm, because it’s a time when parents with infants can see a movie and trust that they’ll sleep through the screening. Please, balance out for me, the loss of Gabby Giffords’ potential with impatience at a waiting period, or frustration at not being able to fire a certain number of bullets per minute. Because this is the choice we make, every time. And I’m terrified to watch us make it again.”
I have no doubt we will.
We are also ignorant. Are these types of shootings not terrorism? We define terrorism as violence by ‘others,’ mostly Islamic extremists. But really, what is the difference between 9/11 and the events in Newtown except for scale? Certainly there are different motives and religious factors involved, yet terror is at the heart of each event.
In the coming days, we will no doubt hear politicians speak strong words against terrorism, vowing to punish those who needlessly took three lives. Patriotism will soar, and those who don’t follow the script will be vilified for being unpatriotic. Indeed, President Obama already took some heat yesterday for not referring to the bombings as acts of terror. These events bring out the worst in us because our need to be comforted always outweighs the need to hear the truth.
Again I ask: why are bombings terrorism and mass shootings just murder?
The FBI, Homeland Security and countless police forces all over the country will go on high alert, and dozens of false alarms will sound. We’ll be told to be vigilant, and the number of arrests and people detained on suspicion of participating in terrorist activities will skyrocket.
Yet people will still be able to buy guns over the internet without a background check. And politicians and citizens will continue to defend their right to own assault rifles and buy magazines that can get off 30 rounds in a minute, even though the vast majority of the public supports gun control measures. And some media types will continue to denounce the advocacy of Newtown families as part of some hidden agenda by the left wing, even though those families are simply fighting so that others will not have to endure the same hell they’re going through.
Since Newtown, approximately 3500 people have died due to gun violence.
In the last year, 88 people were killed in 16 mass shootings.
Yesterday, 3 people died.
While no senseless death is okay, we tend to have a blind spot when it comes to bombings.
It’s best we remember that while we are bombarded with well-meaning yet sensationalist media coverage over the coming days.