Worthy and Unworthy Victims


I really don't want to be a party to the premature politicization of the Boston marathon bombing because we don't yet know who did it or why, so any political talk at this point is really stupid, but this is too much: yesterday in a televised speech President Obama said: "Any time bombs are used against innocent civilians, it's regarded as an act of terror."
 
I can just imagine the deafening sound of crickets chirping in places like Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Gaza, and elsewhere, as the denizens of the third world struggle with lifting their jaws off the floor. For them, living under the rain of terror that comes from U.S. missiles, President Obama’s comment was surreal.
 
Back on April 7 Reuters ran this article “Twelve Afghan civilians dead in air strike: Afghan officials,” which reported that, “Eleven children and a woman were killed by an air strike during a NATO operation targeting Taliban commanders in eastern Afghanistan, officials in the region said Sunday.”
 
Back to President Obama's comment yesterday: Other than the irony and hypocrisy, the comment about "innocent civilians" is very troubling, and we should consider them closely, especially in consideration of the deadly U.S. attack mentioned above.
 
Now, presidents choose their words very carefully and employ speech-writers to comb over every word and its implications. We have got to think hard about why President Obama hinged the “act of terror” on using bombs “against innocent civilians.” Is it not an act of terror if we can say they are not innocent? And how do we determine innocence? Were the eleven children and one woman innocent, or were they guilty? If the latter, what was their crime? What was the legal process of determining their guilt? If, in the course of investigating the Boston marathon, we find that the bomber was targeting some unsavory person(s) does that mean we can dismiss the three dead and dozens wounded as collateral damage?
 
Obviously these questions are rhetorical and designed to point out the absurdity of President Obama’s words in that we are excluded.
 
ABC has said “We Are All Boston,” and the Boston Herald said, “Today at last we’re all Bostonians.”
 
This sense of solidarity and unity is fine and good, but we should consider very closely why there is no “We Are All Afghanistan,” or “Today at last we’re all Afghans.”
 
And while on the subject of victims, and who is worthy and unworthy, there is two more matters to comment on:
 
The final mile of the Boston marathon, mile 26, was dedicated to the victims of the Newton shootings last December. The Atlantic reported that, "Boston Athletic Association president Joanne Flaminio said before the race that had a 'special significance' because it was 26.2 miles long and there was 26 victims in the Newtown attack."
 
There is a problem here: Adam Lanza killed 27 people before he turned his gun on himself. Even at this point it is clear Adam was not all there, and he too should be included in the "victims." And his mother was most certainly a victim as well, but that our society continues to exclude her doesn't sit well with me. All over the country there have been tributes to Lanza's victims and "26" has become somewhat of a theme. Stop it.
 
Lastly, it is a pleasant surprise that a large media source not only covered this incident, and covered it well, but did so much quicker than I thought would happen. Amy Davidson of The New Yorker recently published her article “The Saudi Marathon Man” which shames the person who tackled a Saudi man—following the explosions at Monday’s Boston marathon—and pinned him down (on the grounds that he looked "suspicious") until police could take him away (whom quickly cleared the man and cautioned folks not to profile), when the only thing the Arab man was guilty of was being an injured bystander. The incident stunk of racism, and it was nice to see the anti-Arab bigotry taken head on.

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