Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Marathon: Choose How You React

By now everyone has heard about the bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. While information has been rather sketchy, it's pretty clear these bombs maimed, injured or even killed dozens of people. To have something like this occur at an event like the Marathon is terrible, and I sincerely hope we bring whoever was responsible to justice. For me, the thing I most noticed in the sketchy details of the incident: a lot of people (trained or otherwise) were very brave and dove in to help people in danger...even total strangers. This floors me in every way. How amazing!

Unfortunately, these acts of kindness, bravery, and heroism receive scant notice in the media, and few conversations I have overheard this morning mention them.  Instead, everyone is nervously talking about terrorism, watching looped clips of the bombs going off on every news outlet, consuming photographs of people's injuries and blood on the streets, and getting worked into overemotional responses or crowing how they want to torture whoever did this. This behavior appalls me.

It appalls me, but it doesn't surprise me. As a nation, we have been trained to fly into a self-indulgent emotional furor over everything shown to us in the media. I suppose I always hope that perhaps eventually people will get tired of being jerked like monkeys on a chain. Instead, all I can do is view the coverage, listen to the public reaction, and think: "Here we go again."

To begin with, everyone is calling this terrorism. Is it? Not every bad thing that happens is a terrorist attack. As yet, no group has taken responsibility for the bombs. To me this suggests it might be the work of a lone nut job. So, to begin with, let's not go running around screaming about terrorism before we knew the facts. That would be one piece of rationality I would like to see injected into all this.

More importantly, whether this is an act of terror or not, what earthly good does it do to focus with such pornographic intensity on the violence of what happened? Sure I want coverage, but I don't need a full spread of photos in the morning paper showing as much graphic detail as possible. It's neither informative nor helpful. What is it? It's a blatant appeal to the baser type of people that always surface during these kinds of tragedies: the people who want to see the violence and gore and anguish of those hurt or killed. In full color, if possible. The people who take the YouTube videos (or watch them) rather than help those in trouble. In other words, it's sick.

It's especially sick if this turns out to be a genuine act of terror. Terrorists get their name because they are trying to instill fear and terror in people, so as to to scare us into being controlled by them. The media - by acting like an unpaid PR firm promoting the violent acts of every lone nut job and political organization in the world - are giving terrorists exactly what they want.  And so are those who suck at the pig trough of such low level 'reporting'.

We have to acknowledge evil acts, report on them, and discuss them, but we have to do so in an objective, considered, and dignified manner. This is because acts of terrorism or violence are designed by severely deluded individuals to drag us down to an emotional level where we can be controlled, scared into submission, or silenced. If a person was at the Marathon or knew someone there, terror is a natural human reaction. For the rest of us, allowing ourselves to react in the way the terrorists want makes us accomplices in their deeds. Consider: How motivated would loonies and terrorists be to shoot up schools and detonate bombs if they didn't get months of constant coverage allowing them to and unsettle every man, woman, and child with a TV within a thousand miles of their display of hatred and ignorance?

We have no choice about the fact that there is evil in the world, but we do have a choice about how we react to it.  If we focus on evil and the worst in human nature, we make a world where it holds sway. What would it be like to report on or talk about this incident by focusing on the good and best examples of humanity? What kind of world do we embrace by doing that?  The real news story here is that - even in the midst of something this awful - there are people willing to step up and help, that regardless of how hideous the act, it doesn't make a dent in the genuine kindness and decency that lives in most of us.

To that point, here's my morning after coverage of the bombing of the Boston Marathon where - so far - three people have died and dozens have been injured, some very severely.

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