2013

1 May 2013: We shouldn’t get used to the horror

We shouldn’t get used to the horror

Another act of major violence inflicted upon the public, an act of terror meant to intimidate and strike fear into the hearts of everyone: The Boston Marathon attack is the latest such heinous act and surely won’t be the last.

According to a New York Times report, acts of terror in the U.S. have declined since 1970.  That is meant to be comforting, one supposes, balm to calm jittery nerves.

Is this attack one more indicator of the fragmentation of our society, of the global society?  Our response to it, as syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker suggests, is the key.

“The challenge,” she writes, “isn’t only to prevent the next act of terror.  It is to avoid becoming accustomed to the horror.”

I agree, but then it would take a groundswell reversal of the human condition pre-dating humanity itself if one puts stock in the literalness of myth.

In the Judaic-Christian tradition, violence began under God’s watch with Lucifer’s rebellion and Archangel Michael’s victory.  Lucifer got whacked and sent to hell.

The Greeks had their own legends about pre-human violence.  Kronos, the Titan god of time and ages, castrated his father Uranus (the Sky).  Fearing he would be in turn be overthrown by one of his own sons, Kronos subsequently swallowed each as he was born.  As the English might say, pleasant sort of chap.

Growing up during the Vietnam years, I recall the violence leftwing, anti-war groups such as the Weatherman perpetrated.  Despite their target being a bogeyman government—now the bogeyman of the nutty right—nonetheless, their deeds were directed towards fellow Americans.

In 1995 rightwing crazy Timothy McVeigh, in his irrational anti-government vendetta, murdered 168 fellow Americans without presumably batting an eyelash.  To him they were merely collateral and necessary damage.  Innocent people must die if the final goal is to be realized.

Over the past three decades the term “going postal” has found its way into our vocabulary, and the spate of mass shootings since Columbine is quite fresh in all our minds.

We worry about the enemy from without, but as Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  We are increasingly becoming a dysfunctional society, a coterie of individuals so immersed in our own stuff that we no longer consider the whole.  For many the self-serving ego is paramount.

After the September 11th attacks, for a while there seemed a palpable sense of not only unity among Americans, but one of compassion, of regard towards other citizens.  My sense is that that no longer happens.  Of late, there no longer seems to be sort of a honeymoon period, a shared time of civility between the latest horror and the inclination for societal turds to be turds.

Tie that in with a sense of entitlement, an “I’m special” outlook, and we have nationwide spread of ugly Americans.

There’s a certain coarseness pervading American culture that gives individuals permission to treat anyone in their way like crap.  Those demanding and condescending behaviors are indicators of personal inferiority complexes.  It’s the real reason we take it out, play out our aggressions, on others.

My first reaction to the Boston Marathon attack was one of horror and anger, but it quickly morphed into defiance, an inclination to get into a race, any race.  That has become more of mindset among many, a cultural phenomenon that has evolved since the September 11th attacks when we smugly felt snug in our beds, that what was not a rare event elsewhere—Israel, Somalia, England—couldn’t possibly happen here.

Obviously it can because it did, but significantly enough, even if this latest is found to be the work of non-Americans, it will be the first perpetrated on American soil by a non-American since September 11, 2001.

The amazing aspect of every heinous act is the willingness of so many to come to the aid of the stricken without regard to personal safety.  Coupled with the resiliency with which we react and rebound, it would seem to indicate that we are whole, that we share a common sense of purpose.  Tom Friedman writes about what is most endangered: trust in the assumption that most any reasonable place we go to in a free society is safe.

True, but I fear respect for others is not growing but is diminishing, and my suspicion is that our disease cuts far deeper.

Something is sadly amiss.  We are becoming accustomed to the horror.

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