“THESE PEOPLE ARE INNOCENT!”
I have waited to write about Boston and the bombing at the end of the Marathon. I didn’t want to react too quickly and especially wanted the perpetrators to be identified and caught. I did have an immediate reaction(s) of course, and one was to the declaration made by some folks as to the innocence of those who were killed or maimed by the bombs. I certainly agree that the people who were killed or injured were innocent in the sense that they had no prior offensive relationship to the bombers. They were not attacked because they had done some wrong to these two brothers, in fact if anything the circumstances seem to suggest otherwise. America had welcomed them, Boston had made a place for them, they were given opportunity by the collective community and the crowd at the finish line was representative of that welcoming and embracing community. There seemed to be such an outrage and shock that this event, (this very democratic and individualistic athletic contest where people run as individuals, some with friends, some with family, some with ad hoc groups but not so much as commercial teams) was targeted. Yes, there are national representatives, there are some professionals who make a living running, but the marathon is overwhelmingly made up of individuals are who running more against themselves and the clock than against other runners. These are the healthy people, those who are running to overcome age, weight, disease, a sedentary life, a life without challenge. Their triumph is to finish, their joy is to be alive. But are they innocent? I think one good thing that could come from this horrible incident is that maybe the bombs would blow away the illusion of detachment. I took the statement in some part as a declaration that these people are not involved in our international fight, that somehow these folks deserve a pass from the conflict that has been visited upon us. It led me to think of the many folks up in Ivy League land who enjoy the blessing of this land of plenty and opportunity, enjoy the benefits of liberty such as running in a race whenever they want to do so, and somehow don’t participate in the fight to preserve those liberties. Let me be fair, it is not just folks in New England, or those who go to Harvard, M.I.T. or Yale, but the vast majority of middle class and upper middle class folks who do not serve in the military or risk their lives in battle to preserve what they so easily enjoy. The statistical reality is that very few families have borne the burden of the war we will continue to fight, and our government has attempted to shield those who pay taxes from the monetary cost of that war by its continued borrowing. I am in no way implying that the folks who were attacked deserved to be attacked, what was done to them was despicable and evil. As an American I do not for one moment believe we deserve the hatred or the vicious attacks brought against us by radical Islamists or by any other group that fosters hatred for us as a nation and society. What I am implying is that none of us can stand apart and act as if it is not “us” who are being attacked. We are attacked precisely because it is “us,” we the people of these United States, and what we represent. The folks who have enjoyed such a pleasant life of personal enrichment, fulfillment, and even entertainment are now forced to sacrifice life and limb in horrific ways though they think they never signed up to do it. While the “pursuit of happiness” seems sometimes to lead to self-centeredness it cannot be maintained without the sacrifice of many. I imagine some would want to compare the victims in Boston to the innocents who die from drone attacks but I would have to differ from that view. Although I totally agree that targeted killing of declared enemies needs much more accountability and careful congressional oversight it is nevertheless “targeted” killing. It is not the carpet bombing of Viet Nam days, it is the most precise kind of strike we can make absent a bullet to the head of those who are engaged in war against this nation. Do innocents die, do children and family members get killed? Yes, just as they always have in war and this is why all war is horrible and disgusting. This war was not begun by us but we certainly fight it different than the enemy does, though not without some hypocrisy for which we as a nation must be vigilant to reject. I speak of torture especially. This is one reason we do not purposely attack the funerals of those we kill in drone attacks, although sometimes a thousand men are ranting “death to America” at such events. In every war bad decisions are made, and some would have to be considered war crimes, but in this war we do not purposefully plant bombs in civilian crowds nor have we purposefully bombed civilians. One of the important legacies leaders in democracies should leave their people is that we are different in our values from those who are totalitarian, despotic, and homicidal in their hatred of us. Those values are not just in what we say we stand for but also in how we make war, or try not to make war. Another legacy democratic leaders should leave to all members of that democracy is the challenge that democracies only stand as we participate and pay for it, not only in its fruits but in its responsibilities. If our best educated, healthiest, and most economically mobile continue to stand aloof from national service and sacrifice, while they enjoy a materialistic lifestyle provided to them by those who bear the burden, then paying the butcher’s bill for simply living or being in this country may come due more often. My point is that we are not innocent of being Americans, not innocent of living in a land full of freedoms. We are the target of the envious, the bitter, the covetous. Though these brothers were welcome to enjoy all that the rest of us do there was inside them something that did not want that opportunity except on their own terms. What set these two brothers off is yet to be made clear but certainly we should have learned by now that there are many like them who would do the same to us if they could. Because of that our society needs constant vigilance and guardians, and it is time that those who participated in that sacrificial service came from a greater cross section of our nation.