Monday, April 15, 2013

SPE: "An Eye For An Eye"

{For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, kgwaite gave me this prompt: "What would you give up?" I gave Venusmoon this prompt: ' "The time it takes to get something done is the time it takes." --Mandy Patinkin'}

What would I give up? I feel like giving it all up. Once again, I am staring at a blank document, a lovely little prompt, meant for me to conjure up a work of imagination and beauty, staring me in the face, while all I can think of is far off death and destruction and blood. This time, the tragedy came from my ancestral home, Boston, where bombs exploded in the crowd at the Boston Marathon today. And again, I am stunned, numbed into silence and grief and a heartsick anger. It's easy to feel helpless. Again, there is precious little I can add. As I write these words, very little is known about what or why or who, as if there can be a possible why. I've turned off the television and turned away from social media out of raw, burning frustration, unable to make sense of the rumors and half truths and earnest pronouncements. Unable to make sense of anything, really.

I don't know why some things affect me more than others, exactly. If I can be said to hold one principle more or less sacrosanct, it is that blood should not be shed unless one is really, really sure there isn't another way out. And this is a principle that gets violated constantly, and new mourners are created all too regularly. Grief is not tangible- it can't be weighed. Aurora is not more tragic than Columbine, and Boston is not worse than Sandy Hook. "Each man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind," John Donne urges, but that isn't really true. Sandy Hook shook me more than most because it was children. Today gives me a nasty knock because at heart I am a Bostonian- those are my streets. Those are my people.

Yet I know intellectually that Iraqis and Palestinians and Israelis and French and Belgians and Ugandans love their children, too. But as Jeff Foxworthy pointed out once, we see so many awful events all around the world that they kind of blur in the mind- we see if any Americans were killed, and then we turn the page and read Dilbert. People around the world die for horrible reasons because of drone strikes and car bombs and plane crashes and the simple, stupid grinding slaughter that American cities serve up to their lower classes in a grisly buffet.

We are a violent people, and we live in a violent world with a violent culture. I have consumed mass media right along with everyone else, and I have undoubtedly watched thousands of portrayals of murders on television, in films, and during video games. I have paid thousands of dollars in taxes, some of which has gone to buy bombs and missles and bullets and mines, some of which have no doubt blown off an arm or a leg or a finger or a head of someone who never did anything to me. In that sense, there are no innocent people any more. We're all in it, up to our eyeballs in the gore and the blood and the muck.

Nothing can excuse or explain what happened today. I don't have any answers, no one to blame, no path out of the woods. The butcher's bill grows ever longer, and the charnel house that the 21st century has become got a little bit bloodier today. But I find myself going back to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whose words caused a sensation during the 2008 campaign when President Obama's former preacher was said to have made "anti American comments" in his sermons. I remember hearing one passage set to music and played on Adam Curry's podcast at the time, and thinking that, while uncomfortable to hear, I couldn't dispute what the man was saying.

I don't know who did this, and I don't care. I don't know how to prevent things like this from happening, and neither do you. But I do know one thing: As Gandhi is supposed to have said, and as Martin Luther King did write, "an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind." If we respond to our grief and rage with more killing and violence, I am certain I will be writing this essay again.

"We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, Arikara, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism.
"We took Africans away from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism.
"We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel.
"We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenage and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard working fathers.
"We bombed Qaddafi's home, and killed his child. Blessed are they who bash your children's head against the rock.
"We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back for the attack on our embassy, killed hundreds of hard working people, mothers and fathers who left home to go that day not knowing that they'd never get back home.
"We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye.
"Kids playing in the playground. Mothers picking up children after school. Civilians, not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day.
"We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff that we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost.
"Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism."
-Reverend Jeremiah Wright