In the Wake of the Boston Marathon Bombing: Take Back Our Culture

April 16, 2013

As the news began to pour in about the bombing at the finish line, I went through a familiar routine.  I lit a candle and started to pray, and then I began searching for information.  I let myself cry, and experienced the horror and the disbelief.  Like others, I posted reassuring words and articles.  I took comfort in accounts of heroism and the words of Mr. Rogers.  I turned off the television (because images are more upsetting than stories) and I went for a walk.  I hugged my children a little tighter than usual.  I gave thanks for my many, many blessings. 

However, this morning, a new and different emotional response has been bubbling up in me.  I am mightily pissed off.  My friends, we should not have to do this.  We should not have to mourn innocent victims of senseless acts of violence on a monthly basis.  Our culture is sick.  Our nation is sick.  Can we start talking about what we might do to help it heal?

Here are some of my preliminary thoughts:

1.  The media could take a good hard look at the way they cover tragedies.

People want information, so we are all glued to our screens when these terrible events occur.  That translates into good ratings.  However, it also means that the perpetrators get the fame and notoriety they are craving.  It also means that all of us watching wind up with secondary traumatization.  The media needs different priorities.  Ratings should not be the be-all and end all.  What would happen if the networks and reporters admitted that sensationalist coverage is making the problem worse, and then asked, “What can we do to make it better, instead?”

2.  We could have a nationwide campaign to ‘know your neighbors.’

In order to commit an act of violence, you have to de-humanize your victim.  That’s only possible in isolation.  Regular contact with actual people keeps us in touch with our natural empathy.  People with healthy and supportive social networks don’t kill people.  People who respect the inherent worth and dignity of all people don’t kill people.  And what enables us to respect the worth and dignity of others is the experience of being respected, ourselves.  Reach out to the loners, the lonely, the hurting, the isolated.  Don’t leave it to the government to weave the social safety net.  It’s our responsibility to make sure that no one slips through the holes.

3.  We could go cold turkey on war.

This country is addicted to war.  The military-industrial complex has convinced us that our economy depends on it.  Our identity seems to rest on being the biggest military power on the block.  But the truth is that we are being bankrupted, morally and financially.  As if the trillions of dollars we spend weren’t enough, the human cost of war is incalculable.  We need to pay attention to the damage our troops are doing in our name…the lives lost and the spirits shattered.  We need to pay attention to the damage done to our troops by multiple deployments.  Their lives and spirits and families are often shattered, too.  How can we create a domestic culture of compassion and respect for life when internationally, we are the ones with the highest kill rate?  We live with this cognitive, emotional, and spiritual dissonance between our stated ideals (“All people are created equal”) and our government’s actions on our behalf.  People ARE NOT ‘collatoral damage.’  They are people. 

4.  We could treat this epidemic of violence like the sickness it is.

The conversation about gun control is just the tip of the iceberg.  I want our nations best scientists to have all the money and support they need to figure out where this disease comes from, how it spreads, and how it might be prevented.  How do we immunize our children against becoming perpetrators?  Can the early symptoms be identified, so that sick people can be treated before the disease gets out of control? 

So today, I am remembering the helpers and enjoying the sunshine while keeping a candle lit.  The prayers and the tears keep on coming.  I will follow the stories, and learn the names of the victims, because we owe them that much, at least.

But I am also standing up and saying:  this is not acceptable.  I do not want to live in a country where almost every month we have the wind knocked out of us by yet another story of senseless violence.  I do not want to raise my children in a culture where bombs and school shootings are the norm.  And no, I don’t want to move, either! 

The “Take Back the Night” movement helped us mobilize against the rape culture.  We need to mobilize against the violence culture.  I want us to take back our society, take back our country, take back our peace of mind.  Who is with me?  And what ideas do you have as to how we can achieve this goal?


4 Responses to “In the Wake of the Boston Marathon Bombing: Take Back Our Culture”

  1. I like suggestions 2-4. I’m not really sure about 1. This story also incentivises all of us to think of how we contribute to others anger and state of mind. A national get to know your neighbor campaign might not be realistic, but maybe this blog post will motivate a handful of people to reach out to each other. Maybe that’s good enough? 🙂

    I also wonder if it’s an institutional problem. E.g. How much time do we actually have to get to know our neighbors?

  2. Victoria Says:

    Media coverage is expertly designed to suck us in, and in a sense, it is mind control. At some point, they either break off to something else or we saturate and turn it off. I noticed at one point, while I had watched channel 2 too long which replayed again and again the same explosions and victims, I switched to channel 4 where hours had pasted (in truth) and streets were clear except for investigators. Terror on 2, calm on 4. Switching back and forth, I noticed the difference in visceral reaction in myself. And then I turned it off. I don’t have answers here, and it’s very hard to turn it off before damage is done to us, but that’s got to be a part of it. Witness, respond, but don’t mire in it. Take a walk, talk to someone, find beauty in the world. Kind of like, you are what you eat. Find a healthier choice to balance the work to be done, whatever that is for each person. Radiating love couldn’t hurt.

  3. Lisa Kliger Says:

    Media coverage is totally necessary, and when something that horrific happens, it is not possible to downplay it. It’s hard to remember in the midst of chaos that if we didn’t have the media, we would not have access to news at all. It’s when they replay ad nauseum because they don’t have any “new” news and need to fill the time–it’s then that they need to stop and say, “We will update you as we learn more.”


  4. Craig Schutz Says:

    What I wonder about this bit of news from the U.S. is why we react and call this blast in Boston a ‘tragedy’ when a bombing in Baghdad or Kabul or Khartoum or Cairo is ‘just another bombing’, a bombing that might kills scores of people just as real as the people in Boston, people with as many dreams and aspirations as ourselves or those people in Boston. Why is this front-page news, and grabbing our attention, when we barely pay any heed to a bomb in Sri Lanka, or Syria, or Gaza?

    We live in the curved space and time described by Einstein now when we cannot point fingers at anyone or anything without those fingers ultimately pointing back at ourselves.

    What I wonder about then, is what it is in me that has caused this bombing or any other bombing? Because if I pretend that the cause I ‘out there’ somewhere, then I have accepted a dissociated view of the world, a world in which I am without real power. What are the unseen and unaware sources of violence within me that I can heal, so that my own psyche becomes less of a cause and more of a solution to healing violence in the ‘world’?

    I pray that I find the courage to look within with complete honesty, and leave no corner of my own psyche unexplored, leave no rock unturned there for the causes whose effects are writ large in the world around me.

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