Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

What For?

Of course, I only stepped out for a moment.

I hate when I do that.

Jumped in the car, drove across town to check on something. A something which was entirely trivial, in the grand scheme of things; but I’m on vacation this week and I had a moment to do it. I was thrilled to locate the bit of information I was looking for. As I drove back home, I cranked up the volume on my CD of cheerful songs and rolled the windows down a bit, also happy for weather that seemed a bit less wintry.

Got home; strolled into the house, chuckled at the fact that I’d been so intent on the bit of information, I’d left the TV on.

I saw “Boston Marathon” as part of the on-screen graphic, which made sense: before stepping out of the house, I’d been watching the incredible elite runners finish that storied race. Then the full graphic offered me my first double-take opportunity of the day: “Explosions near Boston Marathon Finish Line”. That made less sense.

What, near what now?

I became a TV news coverage sponge. Again. How often do we go through this procedure? Put down anything you were carrying, don’t even look away from the screen to find a place to sit; just stand, watch, grimace, and hope it’s not as awful as it looks.

The longer I watched the TV coverage, the less likely it seemed that the hopeful, Pollyanna part of my brain would be proven right. No mere unfortunate gas explosion, this. No mere bad-luck accident – particularly when the second loud boom sounded. As much as the local news outlets labored mightily not to jump to conclusions, pretty soon official reports confirmed the worries: yup. Small packages full of big explosives. Packages, plural. No accidental mixture of materials which were never meant to bump into each other; but on-purpose mixtures of materials which had a definite and loud purpose.

Most of the rest of the world has been experiencing this sort of thing for a very long time now … but this is still relatively new on us, hereabouts. There are those who might well look sideways at us Americans and murmur, well, welcome to our world. It doesn’t make it right. Doesn’t make it any easier to calm the shaken nerves. But for the majority of us (and, one would hope, for people charged with making decisions and policy), it does spark thoughts like, “there must be a way to make this sort of thing less likely, for more of the world.”

Just a few hours after the explosions, the news media began to tiptoe gingerly into this territory: why? Not just the howl of horror and revulsion and disgust, “why?”, but the desperate bid to determine, then to understand: whose work was this? What was their point?

Since there’s terrorism at work in the world on a regular basis … is it possible that people at International Terrorist Central saw this big public event and/or location – one which is a security challenge, to be sure – one which a large part of the world is familiar with and pays attention to – and had a light bulb go on over their heads? We’ve been down that road before, just down the road from Boston.

Or, is it possible that this could have had have something to do with domestic policy here in the US? Writer Charlie Pierce noted that today, April 15, was both Patriots Day (a curious holiday in Massachusetts and Maine commemorating the events of April 1775, as the American Revolution kicked into gear not far from Boston) and also the due-date for income tax returns. Commenters on that online article (entitled, appropriately, “Holy Mother of God”) alternately excoriated and uplifted him for making those points, even though he wasn’t making specific connections or accusations. For weal or for woe, writers gonna write …

On the other hand, it didn’t take long for one radio talk show host to suppose that the federal government was behind the blasts. Nor did it take long for the ghoulish Westboro Baptist Church people to announce their intent to picket the funerals of the people who were killed today. So I’m thinking that writers like Charlie Pierce might be allowed to wriggle off the hook here, if they were ever on the hook to start with.

Or … speaking of ghoulish … was this just the work of a lone deranged yahoo, pursuing an agenda that only he or she was privy to? Or, perhaps, was there even an agenda at all? In movies, superheroes often battle supervillains whose sole purpose seems to be causing destruction and mayhem merely to see it happen. No fiendish, ancient Ra’s-al-Ghul plan to save civilization by destroying it; just the compulsion to watch things go bang, and watch people run around scared and hurt afterward, and get some kind of sick thrill from the watching. Are people with that mindset working in our non-cinematic world, too?

After an initial few hours of merely trying to get the order of today’s events straight, the inevitable speculation, opining masquerading as news analysis, accusations, flaming, and trolling have now begun, over the airwaves and upon the Internet. No matter what the investigators finally discover, though … what this all boils down to – if the yesterday’s explosions in Boston do not in fact represent a random act of a random person with a random thought process – is this:

There are still people out there who feel that the best way to make a point is to use violence.

The people who have suffered today were just there to cheer on the participants of a road race. They weren’t there to discuss global jihad, or Second Amendment remedies, or Roe v. Wade, or the price of gas, or banks too big to fail, or standardized testing, or even the Red Sox bullpen. They were watching an athletic competition, on a decent spring holiday afternoon, minding their own business. And they got hit by improvised explosive devices that contained ball bearings and other bits of pre-packed shrapnel designed to inflict great damage on the unlucky humans that happen to be in the way. And for what?

There’s something distinctly unfair about that.

News outlets reported early this evening that one of the three people who did not survive the explosions (as of this writing) was just eight years old.

There’s something far, far beyond unfair about that.

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April 15, 2013 - Posted by | current events, journalism, news | , , , , , ,

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