Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What have we become?

Watching yesterday's events in Boston broadcast on television, my very first thought was "we’ve seen this before." The scene on Boylston Street was akin to newsreel footage from war zones—images from Israel, Iraq, from Africa, from Afghanistan—innocents mutilated by violent explosions, shattered friends and family members crying out in despair, and brave strangers running toward a horrific scene offering what little they have to the broken human spirits ripped from the lives they had known just moments before.

Twenty-four hours after the Boston blasts there are no answers to the questions we're all asking: Why did this happen to us, why now, and who on earth has the mad capacity to plan and carry out this depraved act of terror?

In the absence of answers, a new question has been stuck in my head since George Stephanopoulos' special report interrupted an ordinary, peaceful Monday afternoon: What have we become that this war zone has visited our backyard; that the images of blood splashed on the sidewalk and of the shocked, desperate victims belongs to us? And if it can happen in Boston, why not at Green Bay's Bellin Run or at Appleton's Flag Day Parade?

Have we become just like them?

By them, I mean the people living in the towns, cities and countries across the globe where this sort of thing happens with enough regularity that it seems almost "routine." Where military men and women patrol airports, convention centers, hotels, sidewalks and beaches bearing the types of guns that are branded legitimately as assault rifles. Where lunch with friends at a street side café might end with the blast of a suicide bomber that sends diners to the pavement and bloody chaos. Or where a pickup baseball game is called when the players lose—forget about the game—their limbs or their young lives to an improvised explosive devise on the playing field. Where a trip to the post office brings not electric bills, catalogs and junk mail, but shards of junk that isn’t mail at all, delivered with explosive, unimaginable force toward the unsuspecting recipient of an ordinary-looking package.

There have been too many terrible violent acts in the United States—mass shootings in schools and in movie theaters and shopping malls—brought by deranged, sick individuals. Until yesterday, those horrific "situations" were problems I thought to be our collective obligation to solve—something along the lines of a failed mental health system that we must fix, or a culture obsessed with guns and violence that we can change.

The atrocities in Oklahoma City and on 9-11 were so enormous and difficult to comprehend that I managed to isolate myself from their true impact, believing that my representatives in government had the responsibility to protect me, and all of you, from future terrorist acts against the United States. None of this would be easy, I figured, but it seemed reasonable to me that solutions were possible and that, in time, we would find our path back to sanity and civility.

I’m not sure anymore. We live in a violent world.

Maybe we’ve been like them all along and, until yesterday, I failed to see it.


  1. Well-said, Sheree.

    More questions than answers.

  2. I had a friend point me to Patton Oswalt's comments on Boston, and I thought they were surprisingly uplifting and worth reading - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patton-oswalt/patton-oswalt_b_3088337.html

  3. Dave, I appreciate the link. As time passes, my head is moving to a better place and I wonder if that's a good thing. I'm having a really hard time with all this violence - it hasn't always been this way.