04/19/2013 06:44 pm ET Updated Jun 19, 2013

From Boston Once More: What Should We Have Learned From the Boston Marathon Bombing?


In the 1760s, Boston, Mass., was home to the most ribald and disruptive population in the American colonies. That sturdy group of men and women had no taste for the "the MONSTER or a standing ARMY" of redcoats that was being used to enforce laws that they had no say in enacting. Of course, there was much to be said about the situation in that pivotal town across the spectrum of political allegiance. On the one hand, the colonials who desired representation pointed to the unjust nature of a foreign standing army milking the fruits of their labor. On the other, loyalists or Tories understood that the British empire was swimming in debt that was incurred through the expenses of forging those then-pubescent colonies. Propaganda was spread on both sides of the pond in cartoons, newspapers and published communiqués relevant to the discussion. The facts of the situation in that decade of history were generally the same on both sides, yet with tactical omissions in the delivery of the facts, a purposeful story was constructed to win the hearts, minds, passions and muskets of true patriots (those loyal to the crown or the colony, both true in the heart of the believer).

We all know of the culmination of the early tensions in Boston: the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party. Most of us remember seeing animated cartoons in elementary school classrooms depicting the heroism of our American warrior ancestors, fighting back the devils in red with courage unimaginable. These purposefully painted portraits of history, although wildly incomplete, performed a real function in producing patriotic people with a great, unshakeable esteem and regard for the all but infallible American revolutionary. It warms the heart just thinking about it, right? Several days ago the primordial political melting pot that is Boston was rocked with bloodshed once more. As in the earlier Boston Massacre, civilians lost their lives. Though the most reasonable response to such a thing would be to take a somber pause and closely evaluate the facts of the case without presupposition or bias, that would be too much to expect. Every effect has a cause, but it seems that every effect can be assigned an a priori cause post hoc, as well. Here are a few of the essential lessons learned from this event:

Today I learned that the Boston marathon bombing is a good reason for me to buy an AR-15. With the current zeitgeist of heated debate about gun control in our country, it makes good sense that we should look at this tragedy as a point of data in the gun control debate. Rather, it would if guns had played any role whatsoever in the marathon attacks.

Today I learned that the reason that three Americans are dead and so many others are grievously injured is that we don't kill people for being gay. I suppose that if we did kill people for being gay, we'd have a much smaller population, and maybe then there wouldn't have been as dense a crowd at the finish line, or perhaps if we killed off gay people, our economy would suffer to a point where such recreational events would be impossible. No. This one makes no sense either.

Today I learned that humanists don't have equal rights to mourn in this country. Those godless heathens should just leave the mourning process to the good, faithful folks and stop trying to pretend they have emotions. Who do they think they are, trying to cope with the tragic double amputation of a close friend and active supporter of the humanist community through ceremony? Maybe they just had a spell of that uppity equality nonsense that's been going around for the last, oh, 75 to 150 years or so.

Today I learned that I live in a very racist world and should hope that the bomber was white, and that if that ideal can't come through, I should at least hope that the bomber was not Muslim, because we all know what happens when someone from the Muslim faith kills Americans on American soil. I suppose I'm going to fail on all accounts, though, because in reality I just hope that the bomber is caught and is not a repeat offender. I'm one of those crazy idealist types who believe in individual responsibility.

Today I learned that there are officers in the U.S. Army who already knew the identity of the bomber before the rest of us! One proclaimed his observations to a classroom full of cadets at West Point, saying, "It's always the Muslims, and everyone knows it, and everybody's afraid to say it. Well, I am not!" Of course, there was this one other time, and a few here, and all these (it's a long list) where non-Muslims attacked U.S. civilians on U.S. soil, but who's counting? I suppose my earlier concerns about the potentiality of an Islamaphobic backlash can be put to rest. The arbitrary and inarticulate hate is already flowing.

All sarcasm aside, I can't honestly say that I have learned anything from this ideological Easter egg hunt being posited by the pseudo-sages of our day. Though domestic propaganda in all its colorful forms may make good fodder for a standup comedian, there is no real value in instinct-driven uproar, whatever the message. Putting things into perspective and taking a few moments to reflect on the sadness of loss of life and limb is about all that can be taken from this by us ordinary civilians, though I suppose panic, frustration and absolute (unfounded) assertions make for better entertainment on a night of armchair politics by the soft, thought-soothing glow of an LCD screen.

"Societies appear to be subject, every now and then, to periods of moral panic. A condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests; its nature is presented in a stylized and stereotypical fashion by the mass media; the moral barricades are manned by editors, bishops, politicians and other right-thinking people...."
--Stanley Cohen

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