It’s been a long week, to say the least.

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.

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6 thoughts on “It’s been a long week, to say the least.

  1. I’m with you most of the way. America should be a more compassionate country. I’m just not sure that we should blame ourselves for what angry people do. If I, say, were to piss you off, it would be appropriate for me to apologize. It would be inappropriate, however, to react with violence toward me. In this scenario, I am America and you are any angry person. (I’m not calling you a terrorist, even hypothetically. I want to make that clear.) I feel American leaders should take some time to examine, REALLY examine, what our foreign policy shows to others. Tony Soprano always talked about Gary Cooper, the strong and silent type in therapy. (Wisdom from a tv show about a mob family. Who’da thunk?) I think America should be more like that. I personally don’t care what other countries think of us but I would like to see our foreign policy change in such a way as to benefit our nation and the world in general. Right now, I don’t think it’s cutting it. Clinton wasn’t my favorite prez, but his foreign policy skills were niiiiiice.

    • I think that we should care about what other countries think about us, in that it is often a mirror, albeit a foggy and imperfect one. I’m not saying that we are to blame for the bombings, or even that American foreign policy is to blame. I’m saying that when you’re the biggest baddest kid on the playground, and have gotten used to bullying those smaller than you, it shouldn’t surprise you when someone shoots you in the foot. It doesn’t mean apologizing to that person–it does mean maybe it’s a good time for some hard reflection at our own policies and choices. 🙂

      • I agree about the hard reflection part, for sure. About the surprise part, I admit I’m a little wishy-washy on the subject. Depending on how mean of a bully the kid is. Let’s just go with the stereotypically hippie answer. “Violence is not the answer! We should all try to love one another right now.” And that goes both ways. We don’t have to like other countries but we need to respect each other in order to make the world a better place. Literally.

      • I’m not saying nonviolence–I’m just saying not blind violence. That’s all. I think so much of what America does, and not just at a government level but at a corporate level, condones violence and environmental destruction against marginalized people all around the world, and that’s fucked up.

  2. I get what you’re saying. You’re not a crazy person who thinks that we should always roll over and be walked on when sometimes, just sometimes, maybe reacting is better. But we should seriously think before we nuke. Totally. In such a case, we’d all get along a lot better. I got ya. I did before, too.

  3. Warning: I’m not sure I necessarily have any EDUCATED opinions on this, it’s more a stream-of-consciousness reaction more than anything, so please bear with me. 🙂
    I agree with you in that the pictures that are coming out of the police activity in the Boston-metro (more specifically, Watertown) area definitely scare more than reassure me. Actually, if I can be honest, those pictures disgust me to the point of seeking out cute kitten pictures. 😉 Seriously, though, those pictures were not unlike pictures I’ve seen of a warzone. I suppose many Bostonians would argue that this IS a war. I guess I would respectfully disagree. Does it make anybody feel any better being on lockdown, waiting your turn for an armed group to turn your house upside-down in case their suspect is hiding out?

    I have to admit the first thing I thought of when I heard about the bombing is not “poor us”, but “hm, this sucks, especially since I know of a lot of people with family/friends around there. At the same time, can you imagine having to live with the fear of not knowing how your family/friends are going to fare every single day of your life?” Really truly that’s what I thought. And it’s not to belittle our own situation. I didn’t curse just whoever was responsible; I cursed humanity in general. Violence in general, that humanity is so weak as a whole that violence can be seen as any kind of viable solution (yep; hippie-in-training here).

    I could be wrong, mostly because I didn’t major in political science or anything remotely to do with history or geography or anything of that sort, but the hubs and I were discussing war after the bombing, and how odd it was that all our entering into wars was never our idea. It was always a reactionary thing–we have to be the country who’s the hero and “take care of business” and protect the countries who are “being bullied” or are “being oppressed”, even when they haven’t asked for our help. The other super powers of the world are getting annoyed with us not minding our own business and meddling in others’ affairs when we don’t possess any knowledge of how we can be respectful to their cultural/political situation. I think when we stand as the world instead of isolating ourselves as a country, we can begin to grow. On an odd, fictional level, though, I’d hate to see that all backfire if we ever had to unite as a world and declare war on another planet. :\ Does there always have to be an enemy in order for a group to unite? I’d really like to think not.

    I think once the world in general can benefit by being aware of global affairs, but possibly no one more so than the U.S. Everyone else seems to know what’s going on in our neck of the woods, but we can’t say the reverse is true. I’m the first to admit I’m guilty of that, mostly because all the violence and wars sadly seem to all blend together and it’s hard to discern one act of violence from the next.

    I’m not really sure what I was trying to accomplish by what I just said there, but those are my initial thoughts and reaction to what you posted.

    I’d like to close with something that’s been circulating in my head for the past few years or so. There’s a country song by Toby Keith that has the line, “We’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way.” The whole song actually just makes me want to vomit, but that’s the line that always especially makes me cringe. I vaguely remember a newscaster (Dan Rather, perhaps?) who refused to have TK on the show and sing that song because he didn’t want that to be the image we portrayed of America. I tend to agree with the newscaster on this point. I don’t want to put a boot in someone’s ass. I want to figure out how to solve these problems so that they don’t have to happen in the first place.

    And my favorite line from your post: “Not as a united nation, but as a compassionate and involved citizen of the world.”

    For REAL. Thank you for this, and keeping the conversation going. 🙂

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