When one gets over the initial shock upon hearing of a far away disaster like the most recent one that hit the illustrious Boston Marathon yesterday, the next mental step taken by most of us helpless bystanders is to search for meaning in what is very likely to be regarded as a senseless tragedy.
First we ask: Why? Why do people do such things?
As of the available information on the incident at the time of this writing, officials have no answers and no suspects — at least none they would like the public to be aware of at the moment. The intent of whoever perpetrated this abominable act seems evident as the explosives were apparently detonated where and when they were likely to exact the most casualties. The perps obviously wanted to kill people. Perhaps, like the 2001 terrorist attack that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City, because the target was another storied American cultural icon, it is natural to assume that the usual suspects are behind this attack — Arab terrorists or “patriotic” extremist Right-wing domestic terrorists.
For now nobody knows. Even if we find out who did it, we, at best, will be able to answer the question only halfway. The more important question of why people are so talented at finding a rationale within their respective belief systems to justify killing other people will likely to remain forever lacking a convincing answer.
Next we ask why some disasters seem to matter more than others.
Under the politically-correct premise that loss of human life is “equally” tragic across cultures, geography and social class, the fact is, death and destruction in America makes lots of news and elicits lots of reaction. Distasteful as it may at first sound to suggest this at this very moment, the fact is it certainly is so and cannot be denied.
Fairly or unfairly (perhaps thanks — or no thanks — to the character of their media) Americans are perceived by many to harbour a particularly acute horror for loss of life relative to other cultures. But in the simple fact of how much Americans raise a stink about senseless death and destruction is an indication of how much they value life and celebrate it.
You can find this in the impressive measures Americans have put in place presumably from what they had learned from almost a decade and a half of experiencing and living under the threat of terrorism. According to one report America had spent “billions of dollars to train emergency responders […], and build and maintain an enormous apparatus designed to respond to events like Monday’s…”
Ambulances, fire trucks, and dozens of marked and unmarked police cars filled Boston’s streets; their sirens formed a pulsing, unrelenting, almost nauseating Doppler sound pattern. In Boston Common, the city’s main public park, squadrons of men in fatigues and berets lined up in formation with assault rifles on their shoulders, as helicopters swarmed overhead, and an armored Humvee idled nearby—all assembled within 90 minutes of the explosions.
In a sense, the outrage felt by Americans over their tragedies — whether they be big ones or small ones (if there even is such a thing as a difference between the two) — in the unique way that it ripples across the world’s television, radio, and social media networks is commensurate to how exceptionally damned hard their security forces try to serve and protect their citizens.
Lastly, we might ask why we Filipinos should care.
Why indeed should Filipinos care about a tragedy that claimed the lives of just three people and injured a hundred odd of them when thousands of their compatriots far more routinely die just as senselessly in preventable tragedies year in and year out? Well, if you are sitting there waiting for an answer to that question, then it means you missed the answer inherent to that very question.
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“We will find out who did this, and we will hold them accountable.”
– United States President Barack Obama
[Photo courtesy Hamilton Back Clinic.]