It’s finally Friday, and I wish the entire world could take a collective breath together. It won’t. It can’t, really, because for a lot of people it isn’t even Friday. My brain keeps running through the programs to come up with a summary recap of the week, and it fizzles out before it gets to the end every time It’s the kind of emotional exhaustion that makes many bloggers, not unreasonably, say “Hey, maybe lets just look at a few pictures of cute kittens, okay?” I don’t work that way, though, and I think when there is something that causes us grief or discomfort, it is important to explore that issues so we can better understand ourselves, and learn from it. I strongly feel that even in a tragedy, or especially in a tragedy, there is a lot to learn from.
There is a lot I want to write about, but I don’t know how. I don’t know how to go into what I’m really thinking without being disrespectful to the more basic unfiltered tragedies that have happened. I think those bombers did a horrible thing. I think an uploaded photo of police-soldiers in kevlar with a tanked-out humvee behind them sweeping the streets scares me more than it reassures me. I think that the bombing was a horrible event; I also see it as one that should be (like most other tragedies) an opportunity for our nation to reflect inwardly on our own choices and behaviors. I don’t know how to write more about that without sounding like I’m blaming the victims–I’m not. I am, however, turning a critical eye to our policies and actions on an international sphere, and finding a lot of fodder to fuel that criticism.
There’s been a global response* to the bombings that consist of “That’s genuinely, non-sarcastically, very tragic. Also tragic is being bombed so often that it’s no longer breaking news.”
That’s a sentiment that a lot of Americans don’t want to hear, and yet it’s important. Yes–what happened in Boston makes me sick to my stomach. There are a lot of other things that make me sick of my stomach, though, and they happen on a daily basis. This isn’t said to downplay what has happened, but rather a reminder to America that maybe it’s time for us to embrace other cultures and other histories, other countries with their tragedies, as effectively as we embrace our own. I’m afraid that until our country learns to grieve for tragedies on an international stage, our grief will always turn into a righteous rage that is to be feared on a global level.
There is an article from Tim Wise that can be a bit too antagonistic to be particularly effective right now, but it contains a quote that sums up a lot of about how not just white privilege plays into the matter, but how our Stance As United Americans (Who Are Predominantly White) influences our perspective.
“In short, white privilege is the thing that allows you (if you’re white) — and me — to view tragic events like this as merely horrific, and from the perspective of pure and innocent victims, rather than having to wonder, and to look over one’s shoulder, and to ask even if only in hushed tones, whether those we pass on the street might think that somehow we were involved.”
What scares me the most is what Americans end up doing when they are grieving on a national level. Many political analysts compare us as a toddler in charge of the world, and in many ways it’s true. When we get upset, we lash out blindly and violently. It’s time for our nation to grow up a little, though, and the best signifier that a toddler has matured is when they understand compassion and empathy to people outside themselves. They understand that hitting strangers because they’re mad isn’t an appropriate or effective way to express their frustration and anger. I think we have the ability to show a more global level of compassion, and that will be expressed by our ability to grieve on a global level for tragedies that happen not just on our terrain, but elsewhere as well. Here’s a great reminder about how to place contextually relevant emphasis on the cultural identities of the bombers themselves.
I hope that you hug your family and your loved ones. I hope that you take care of yourself, because often times tragedies like this can exacerbate depression and anxiety in people who cope with mood disorders. I know I’ve felt the effects. I also hope, though, that you don’t shy away from your feelings on the topic. Grieve for what happened, and grieve publicly. Grieve not only for what happened, but for the events and choices that led to where we are today. Grive, and learn, and move forward. Not as a united nation, but as a compassionate and involved citizen of the world.
*For what it’s worth, I think that article was written very poorly. Notice how all the sympathy for our tragedy is directly quoted from leaders and individuals, while all the hate mongering is more speculative in nature.