WHAT DOES IT TAKE?
APATHY & COMPLACENCY
ARE THE COINS OF THE REALM
What happened in Boston stays in Boston
(Wednesday April 17, 2013) Are we really as fragile as some of the prognosticators, commentators and pundits would have us believe? Is our “way of life” so tenuously tethered to the wider world that an event such as the bombing in Boston two days ago is supposed to have us collectively “shaken and rattled”? It would be nice to think not; it would be more accurate actually to expound on our broader attitude of perseverance and inherent resilience than to bow to those who almost gleefully forecast our spiritual and emotional demise as a “people”, as a Nation.
In the tired and typical fashion after an incidence such as that which transpired here on Monday, too many columnists, journalists, and sputtering talking heads sound the death knell of the regularity of our daily lives. To call it fear mongering is to elevate it; it is more than that. It appears to be an intentional and cheap rhetorical exaggeration that has no relationship to reality. It is hype, pure and simple; hype of the most gratuitous sophomoric type. The preponderance of such opinions in the newspapers and cable infotainment networks since the tragic twin blasts near the finish line of the famed Boston Marathon two days ago, aside from being hyperbolic, is a red herring floated for dubious purposes. It actually borders on callous exploitation serving no “public” or “greater” good whatsoever.
Such reportage and opining only furthers some of the more disparaging attitudes regarding the character of our Nation and of us as Americans in certain quarters overseas. Sufficient damage is inflicted on us as the rest of the world witnesses the machinations of our profoundly dysfunctional federal bureaucracy without the media insinuating we are all cowering behind locked doors because two bombs blew up in Boston. The cowardly sinister crimes perpetrated on Monday are indeed heinous, tragic, and offensive to our commonality as Americans. We don’t like this kind of shit and it pisses us off. The world has learned that the hard way especially in places such as Afghanistan (which was a righteous cause) and Iraq (which was an ill-conceived, unnecessary, unprecedented war of choice). Just as the Japanese learned in the wake of the sneak attack on our Navy at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, we are a “sleeping tiger” that ought not to be provoked into military action. The Taliban, al-Qaeda, and insurgents in Iraq have also learned that lesson, for what it’s worth.
Be it the product of arrogance or ignorance we, as a Country, have never lived in fear. We’ve had our moments, our close calls as well as our wake up calls, yet out lives have rarely been significantly altered due to a threat be it foreign or domestic. It has probably been since World War II that we as a whole have had to pull together and participate in a massive “war effort” and make sacrifices across and through every strata of our society. Yes, WWII was won by the Nation as a collective with the shared sacrifices and efforts affecting each and every citizen. Such a “war machine” will never be seen again nor will it every likely be required due to the technological advances and sophistication of modern warfare and the asymmetrical fights that define it.
In the days and weeks following previous terrorist attacks that landed in our laps seemingly “out of the blue” there has always been the same tone to some of the commentary. Whether it was Oklahoma City 1995 or the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, there were strident voices proclaiming how these events would forever change who we are and how we live. Clearly after September 11, 2001 we did have to adapt to a “new normal”, in ways that we barely noticed, to security measures that were seen as more inconvenient and onerous. But it was practical necessity that provided the impetus to enhance what had been almost non-existent security in air travel, access to sensitive landmarks, locations, infrastructure, and government facilities.
We are a Nation of over 400 million diverse, disparate individuals and the concept of a “national psyche” or “collective conscience” is a fallacy. But we often act and react with an element of the “herd mentality” and are easily duped, conned, scammed, and mislead by entities as varied as our government to advertisers, the media and the infotainment machines that churn at a frenetic pace 24/7. We can be as gullible as naïfs, as susceptible to hype and idiocy as third graders full of hyperkinetic energy from overdoses of sugar and caffeine. We follow trends set by the few and embrace passing fads with the eagerness of an addict chasing the next fix. But this is superficial behavior; a benign cousin to the oft witnessed mob mentality that can transform a peaceful celebration of a sports victory into a riotous destructive, violent horde.
We do share certain characteristics that mimic a watered down strain of a national psyche but such occasions that trigger these characteristics are short lived; fleeting knee-jerk moments quickly filed away or forgotten in short order. If there is one characteristic that is consistently prevalent it is our short term memory, our National illness just a mutation of attention deficit disorder; nothing grabs our attention or focuses our emotions for more than a matter of days. We are quite adept at pausing to gawk at the spectacle and rapidly move on and back into the familiar confines of our own lives and daily routine. If we have one weakness that is constantly and insidiously effectively exploited it is just that; we lack the ability for sustained resolve. We’ve recently witnessed as a salient issue burned hot and fast only to be extinguished by our lack of commitment and focus as well as the complete inability of our federal government to enact meaningful change on any important issue with the sort of high powered, high financed backing of a group like the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Yesterday the efforts made in Congress to address the hot button issue of “gun control” crashed and burned in the pitifully typical Washington DC fashion. After the hue and cry generated with the murder of 20 first graders and six educators in Newton, Connecticut last December, it appeared, at least momentarily, that this singular heinous crime was simply too outrageous, too fiendishly evil, and that a real window of opportunity had been thrown open for some meaningful legislation to regulate the sale of high capacity ammunition clips and certain “assault-style” weapons. Despite popular opinion determined by extensive polling since that awful day, Americans overwhelmingly support some of the measures contained in the bill that was roundly defeated by the Senate. It sure did not take very long for the tragic, heartbreaking images of that horrific day to fade into the nebulous and ever increasing collective repository we casually toss such public emotion-laden memories into.
No, we Americans are like James Bond’s martinis at times of crisis, “shaken, not stirred”. Our initial reaction to whatever the tragedy du jour happens to be surges, peaks, and ebbs in a single news cycle. We are a nation of dichotomies and divisions, schisms and misconceptions of every kind. Some in the media like to use the term when some calamitous event or harrowing narrative hits our TVs that it has “captured the imagination of America” or “piqued our collective conscience” as if these phrases had any legitimacy which they do not. Yes, we are charitable but quickly ambivalent; we can be caring and sentimental provided it does not disrupt our personal world view and perspective. We tend to be parochial to a fault, complacency has become virtuous, and we talk a good game as long as someone else will fight the fight for us. We can be virulently vocal in our declaration of rights and liberties yet passively reticent about those to whom some of our most cherished values are withheld. If America has a collective anything it is a moderate case of schizophrenia exacerbated by retrograde amnesia. But, we like it this way.
Those in the media proclaiming that every public sporting event, large gathering or mass assembly will forevermore be marred by the Boston bombings are simply wrong and spouting a line of bilge with no relationship to reality. Of course, law enforcement agencies (LEA) across the country will enhance security and be hyper vigilant; at least for a while. That is the proper response provided it is measured and discretion is employed. The powers that be will tip-toe along the slender line that bisects practical reality and oppressive over reach. But we have seen this before. It was not too long after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Transportation Safety Agency (TSA) implemented stringent rules requiring airline passengers to provide two forms of valid photo identification and limitations to what was and was not legal to carry on board a commercial airplane that the travelling public began whining and crying about the inconvenience the upgraded security measures caused them. Convenience was to trump priorities for these weary travelers. That is the American way.
In the hours after Pearl Harbor was lethally attacked by Japan then President Franklin D. Roosevelt took to the airwaves and told the American people that “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” This became a rallying cry for the generation who fought and won that war and magnanimously helped rebuild those countries we defeated and build a new country here at home. After the mass fatality attack on 9-11-01 then President George W. Bush encouraged Americans to “go shopping.” Had the times ever changed!
There will be arrests made in the case of the Boston bombing and, we might all be surprised when we learn who the perpetrators are. Until that day comes we will make idle small talk with family and friends, discuss our own theories of “who” and “why” with coworkers and neighbors. But, our lives will go on as they have. Only those most closely involved and impacted by the fiendish act of terror in Boston will remain fully engaged.
One 28 year veteran analyst with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) commented, “For the bulk of Americans what happened in Boston is just a tempest in their own little teapot. It (the bombing) wasn’t spectacular or dramatic enough to hold their attention. That is just the way it is. I am confident we will find those responsible and the televised images of Monday will quickly recede in most American’s minds. That’s okay but it is also our weakness. Our adversaries do not tell time like we do. If the guilty parties are in fact foreign nationals, associates of a known terrorist group, a ‘sleeper cell’, or just a home grown, anti-government, Right-wing zealot unhappy paying federal taxes, it will not register too much with the public. It is already business as usual even in Boston. And that concerns me more than anything.”
There are already makeshift memorials along Boylston Avenue. There have been and will be more prayer ceremonies and candle light vigils. No doubt there will be some advocacy ribbon designed in “honor” of the killed and injured at the Marathon explosion. This we do and we do it sickeningly well. What is really needed now more than arguably at any other time in the history of our Republic is an active and engaged populace, a determined and persistent electorate, and for Americans, as many as possible, to let the corrupt, vapid, self-serving elected officials we vote into office know that the time has come for them to actually DO something. It does not matter what they do something about as long as they do something that reflects the majority will.
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