let there be light

boston-bombinged

“You will be remembered. Stay strong Boston.”

It’s been nearly two weeks since the bombing at the Boston Marathon. Nearly two weeks since two alleged terrorists killed three people and injured 264 others at one of the world’s oldest and most beloved annual events. Nearly two weeks since chaos erupted and an entire city was shut down to find the imposters. Nearly two weeks, and I have yet to say a word.

I haven’t mentioned Boston.

Why?

Is it because I am heartless? Am I too busy writing articles to concern myself with the plight of marathoners far, far away? Too busy talking to birds and making up poems about the night sky to worry about things like death and destruction? Too busy pondering life to take stock of what’s happening in it?

Or is it . . . something else?

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Injured child in Syria

On the same day as the Boston marathon, eleven Americans were murdered by guns. Two days later, a fertilizer plant in Texas exploded, killing 14. On Wednesday, April 24, at least 370 people died when an eight-story factory building collapsed in Bangladesh. On Friday, April 26, thirty-eight people were killed in a psychiatric hospital fire in Moscow. The United Nations estimates that, since it started two years ago, more than 70,000 people have died in the Syrian civil war. Throughout the world, an average of 3,287 people die in motor vehicle accidents every day. The American Cancer Society predicts that 580,350 Americans will die of cancer this year . . .

So you tell me: Am I heartless?

Maybe it’s just me, but I believe that all human life is worthwhile. My country and my upbringing taught me that every man, woman, and child has potential and a purpose, and that it is a tragedy when even one of these lights is extinguished. According to these standards, it makes no difference how a light is extinguished. Death is no less tragic when caused by a car accident than by a fire, or by an accident than by an explosion, or by cancer than by terrorism.

So, if I haven’t mentioned Boston, I assure you: It isn’t because I don’t care. On the contrary, it is likely that I care too much. My heart bleeds for every situation mentioned above, and for all of those not mentioned, too. The world lost a great deal when it lost Martin Richards, the 8-year-old boy who died waiting to give his father a hug at the finish line in Boston. It lost a great deal when 12 children were killed in air strikes in northeast Syria the day before, too. It lost a great deal when that factory building collapsed in Bangladesh. And, in all likelihood, it’s going to lose a great deal today, too.

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Syrians reach out to Boston

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Does this father look any different than you?

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Collapsed garment factory building in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

A girl cries at collapsed Dhaka clothes factory

A girl cries at the factory collapse in Bangladesh.

.

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Syrian boy escapes near bullet-riddled cars.

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8-year-old Martin, Boston Marathon bombing victim

peace

Light shining through darkness in Syria.

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More than one million Syrians are now refugees.

Images: Google

All sources linked in article.

For an interesting article comparing America’s reaction to the “terrorism” in Boston to its own daily gun deaths, click here.

63 thoughts

  1. I mentioned to a friend earlier in the week the exact same thing you wrote about. I agree with everything you mentioned in this piece.

    • Thanks, Kurt. I fully agree with the article I linked to at the end of this post. To me, America’s reaction to anything that appears to be “terrorism” is over the top when compared to everything else that’s going on in the world today. We are so self-centered and, at the same time, hypocritical. But I don’t really want to go into politics with this blog. ;)

  2. Thank you for another beautiful reminder, Jess. This proves another futility of the current political systems. If the world wants to move towards Light, there’s only one way: the Politics of Love as exercised by Mandela and Gandhi.

  3. Perspective is an underrated thing in our world. Thank you for reintroducing this concept in your article. I’m happy we live in a country that can still afford to be shocked by such things as Boston. But, how can we be continue to be so egocentric? Thanks for the photos, too, Jessica.

    • Yes. Perspective is everything. Quite frankly, I feel the fact that people were “shocked” by Boston is . . . I don’t know. I wasn’t shocked. Not at all. Perhaps I would have been had I been there when it happened, but shocked by the news? Hardly. And, yes, egocentric was exactly the word I was looking for. Of course it’s horrible, but all of the things I mentioned are horrible—some of them far worse than what happened in Boston.

    • You know, you’re right. It *was* emotionally draining. I didn’t expect it to be. But my heart hurts for the millions of people hurting around the world and gets frustrated by what I see as my own nation’s egocentricity. (Not all of the time, and not everyone, but…)

      Anyway, thanks (as always) for reading and commenting, Sam!

  4. Thanks for opening my mind to the context of Boston with poignant images and clear prose. This post has ink-impact.

    • Thanks, Mike. I just couldn’t see Boston the way a lot of people seemed to be seeing it. This post explains why. Glad others can relate and resonate with my thoughts.

  5. My thoughts to all, prompted by your very well written piece:

    I believe that we are not quite as egocentric as many think. I believe we are saddened by any and all tragic events, yet we are, sadly, desensitized by hearing every day of yet another such happening somewhere in the world. What makes Boston so difficult for us (those of us who call this country “ours”) to take is that our country was based on the belief that no one should be persecuted for one’s personal beliefs – political, religious, philosophical, or other. We have attempted to uphold this principle for two and a half centuries. We are seeing, one might argue because of an “insensitivity” to others within and without our borders (although for the most part I would argue against this), a direct attack on this very principle, and it is happening within our borders. This strikes at the core of our values. You can call me what you want, but there is no place within this country for someone to nonsensically purposely commit mass murder of innocent people for “religious” reasons – as the surviving brother reportedly states was the case here. This will not and should not be tolerated here.

    Jessica, you have opened my eyes to a world I previously never appreciated, and have made me think a great deal more self-critically with the greater view you have given me. I believe we all must develop the same view if we are to make ourselves better people and by doing so, our country a better country.

    • Dad, you should read the article I linked to at the bottom of this post.

      This country may have been founded on religious freedom, but, truly, it is no longer religiously free. And, to me, there is no difference between bombing someone for religious reasons and bombing them because you’re trying to overtake the government, as with the situation in Syria. The thinking is the same: “I’m right; you’re wrong.” And that is never okay.

      One of my coworkers in Hong Kong last year was from Bangladesh. This world is far smaller than we think.

  6. My impression here is that you are touching on an issue that affects many media workers as they try to determine newsworthiness; who are “we” and who are “they”? The media tries to build a sense of community and in Australia, there has long been complaints that the media seems to define the world community as America as it is American news that constitutes most of our world news.

    Personally speaking, I’d expect if terrorist attacks become as common in the US as they are in Syria, then we wont keep hearing as much about them. As for whether for whether we should be more concerned about the attacks on America, I’m inclined to say yes because America has often been an aspirational culture and if there are issues going on in this aspirational culture, then those from outside America question what is going wrong. This is why there is a difference between death by accident versus death by design.

    Finally, issues affecting America have a way of radiating out. For example, a small group of people based in Afghanistan launched a terrorist attack on America in 2001 and this resulted in Australia going to war in Iraq in 2003.

    So sum up, I wouldn’t necessarily say that by covering deaths in a Boston terrorist attack that we are more concerned by those deaths; however, such an attack is more likely to shape our world than someone in the Australian in the outback dying of cancer.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!

      You bring up many good points. I certainly agree: If terrorist attacks were as common here as in Syria, we *wouldn’t* have made such a big deal about Boston.

      Your comment about America being an “aspirational culture” hits me hard. It hits me hard because I know it *is* viewed that way in many, many parts of the world. Here in the States kids are raised believing they’ve got it the best there is, and, in many ways, they do: There certainly *are* more opportunities here than in many parts of the world. And yet. The American system is failing. Honestly. I may be a disillusioned American, but the American “empire” is not going to last forever. If it were, why would be so shaken by a couple of pipe bombs?

      You’re right, though. Events like Boston *are* more likely to shape our world than someone dying of cancer—in the outback or anywhere. But when it comes to the tragedy of losing an 8-year-old boy or of losing thousands of children in Syria? To me, they are all equally sad.

      Thanks again!

  7. I understand your feelings. Now, I feel a tad guilty that I wrote about the Boston Bombing. And yes, it feels odd that there are so many killings and deaths around the world. Sometimes, all I can do is shake my head at all the evils we see and hear about every day. But what can we do? All these events are beyond our control. Do we help Syria? This is like, “here we go again.” There was one talk show host who didn’t want the US have anything with Syria. He said the US would be blamed again. He also said, he’d rather see Syrians killing Syrians, rather than Americans killing Syrians.

    • No, no! Don’t feel bad about writing about Boston! My reticence is my own. Some other commenters have brought up some good points why the Boston bombing *is* a big deal. And they’re right.

      As far as helping Syria goes… I’m certainly not trying to suggest U.S. involvement in Syria. I don’t feel we need to be the world’s police. I just feel loss of life is tragic everywhere, no matter the circumstances.

  8. There is this feeling of hopelessness, Jessica. Look at that little girl who was shot point blank by the taliban, All she wanted was go to school. And the two women who were raped in Canada and Pakistan. A member of their family killed them for bringing dishonor to their families. The only thing that still affects me is when children become victims. It always breaks my heart.

  9. Very emotional and powerful. Thanks for sharing! I don’t know what to say either. It seems the last few weeks have been full of accidents and intended hurt and it’s difficult to keep our heads up and remember that there is still good in this world. Each day becomes more difficult to swallow. But expressing the pain and hurt and acknowledging all that happens is important. Most of all: Sharing. Thanks for being compassionate. The world could use more people like you.

    • Thank you, Matthew. What gets me is that it’s not just in the last few weeks… Sometimes it seems more bad things hit at certain times than at others, but terrible things happen every day. That’s why I have a hard time watching the news.

      This blog has actually given me hope. It’s nice to talk to other people who care like you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  10. I don’t believe it’s heartless or less humane to spend some time & energy thinking, feeling, & behaving positively. As you pointed out, being so doesn’t make you self-centered or uncaring about the horrible acts or death happening on this fragile planet in an often volatile Universe/Multiverse. On a quantum level, or neurological, or emotional levels, our heart, mind, and bodies can only tolerate so much bad/evil that if not kept at bay, we would ‘manifest’ the negativity in our own life…and subsequently out into our surroundings and loved ones. If you, I and everyone who DOES have good caring hearts/souls allowed negative, destructive, evil energy to consume us, then “light” would eventually flicker out; we certainly cannot let that happen — so we take respites in order to re-energize and conquer, but conquer non-violently and with deep infinite empathy! :)

    We ‘good’ humans must stick together, drop petty differences, and embrace love and life, and sometimes take rejuvenating vacations, right!?

    • I do agree. Thank you, Professor Taboo. The only way I know to find energy to face the “bad” is, like you said, spend some time focusing on the good. I think most people can understand that.

  11. This is an excellent post. I am overwhelmed too often by the misery in the world…brought to us courtesy of our extensive media. I don’t know whether or not the human mind was meant to encompass all this sorrow from every corner. It is not the deaths, which are ultimately inevitable for all, but the reasons for them which are disturbing. Each murder, mass or otherwise, diminishes us. Thank you Jessica. The Syrian pictures brought tears.

    • Indeed. I very much agree that the reasons behind the deaths are often what make them so hard to swallow. It’s bad enough when a tsunami hits, but when mankind is killing off its own? Your line, “Each murder, mass or otherwise, diminishes us” reminds me of one of my favorite poems, “No Man is an Island,” by John Donne. It is so true.

      The images brought tears to my eyes, too. Especially of the kids. I have many friends with small kids these days. I want to show them these pics and ask, “What if that was *your* baby?”

  12. I enjoy ur poetry more than politics but respect and would die for your freedom of speech – I do hope you respect my 2nd Amendment…

    Oh Jess I look to you for solace – and beauty – but you are such a wonderful writer


  13. This was excellently written and with passion. An in-time message for an end-time world. Let your light shine continually, my brother. I am on the wall with you. Check that link out, I might even believe God for a message to go with it.

    • Thank you. I’m a sister, but I’ll take your compliment, anyway. ;) Looks like an interesting movie. Hadn’t heard of it before… The world sure doesn’t seem to be getting any better, that’s for sure. I think we all need to get out of our own “boxes” and start trying to help others more. It could make a world of a difference.

  14. Excellent post Jessica. My admiration and respect for you has increased 10 folds after reading this post. Those pictures convey more than a thousand words. My heart goes out to them. I can’t help but shed a tear and say a prayer. God be with them.

    • I feel the same way. Those pictures tear out my heart. (There were a lot of others I could have posted, too…) And your words towards me are too kind. I’m about ready to get on a plane and start helping—wherever I can. It’s needed everywhere!

  15. Props to you Jessica for having the courage to say something that sadly becomes controversial in the eyes of many Americans. I wasn’t sure where you were going at the beginning of this piece but I loved where you took it. I couldn’t agree with you more. Unfortunately, (and yes this is a generalization) I think most Americans are taught or encouraged to believe that Americans and everything about us is exceptional. Greatest country, greatest people, greatest judicial system, greatest healthcare system (um…no), etc.

    You can see this in every war that Americans fight. One American death is given more media coverage than 10 or 100 Iraqis, Afghanis or whoever else it may be. It is thought that because we’re defending our beliefs or freedoms then we’re MORE right than the other person and thus don’t deserve to die. And if we die, it should be made into a huge deal. This is nothing new. I’m so glad you’re pointing this out. Yes Boston was a tragedy but what is going on in Syria today or the building collapse in Bangladesh (with workers who were making garments for all the low priced retailers in the US and Europe) is just as tragic if not extremely more.

    Thank you for sharing this and putting yourself out there. -AB

    • Yeah… Sometimes I feel I’m not American anymore, lol. But, no. I was and still am annoyed (though not surprised) by the amount of shock and anger and attention that Boston got/is getting, especially when put in light of the amount of other tragedies happening at this time, even within our own country. My dad thinks it’s because the bombings were for “religious reasons.” Since this country was founded on the idea of religious freedom, such an attack is an attack on our very principles. I disagree. I believe Americans have, largely, vilified Muslims and tend to blow things of this nature out of hand. What’s the difference between setting up bombs like that and taking a machine gun into a movie theater? In my mind, very little. Both are acts of terrorism.

      I agree with your statement that most Americans are taught to believe that we as people/nation are somehow better than others. When I tell people what my life was like in Taiwan, they often act as though they feel sorry for me for what I “went through.” What I discovered, though, is that life in Taiwan is DIFFERENT. Not better, not worse, just different—and that that’s okay. Not everyone has to see things the way America does or live the way we do. Some things about life are more comfortable here, but, as I have tried to point out in numerous posts, “comfort” does not necessarily mean “better.” In fact, in some instances, it can mean “worse.” (What other countries have an “obesity epidemic” like ours? Um… None.)

      So yeah… Now I’m rambling and on a rant. Sorry! I could go on, but I think I’ll shut up now. Thanks for a thought-provoking comment, Arash! And you can always count of me to speak my mind—on my blog, anyway. ;)

      • I totally agree with you Jess. Both of the acts you describe are acts of terrorism. Sadly, in the US we think that everything that happens to us is so much more important than everywhere else in the world. You’re right that Americans have vilified Muslims and it’s amazing the things some people get away with saying about Muslims, Middle Easterners, etc.

        I’m always down for a rant. Especially since we share many of the same sentiments. Speak your mind girl! -AB

      • Lol. It’s nice to meet someone like-minded! People make up so many excuses for why Muslims are vilified. It drives me wild.

        I believe part of the American ego has to do with media as Alex mentioned and also with a lack of awareness of other places/cultures. We in America are much more free to travel the world than many people, but do we do it? And when we do, where do we go? So many choose to go only to Europe. Europe is more comfortable, more similar to our own culture: It’s easy. But, in so doing, we ignore a vast part of the world that is equally if not *more* important… If Europe is already familiar, why not expose ourselves to something completely different? Something that will turn our worlds upside down?

        I must admit I used to be like that. My journey to Taiwan was far from planned… But, in retrospect, it was one of those things that was *supposed* to happen (if you believe in that sort of thing). It has made me who I am. And I am so glad.

  16. A difficult piece to write but well done for doing it. Clearly struck a chord judging by the interesting comments posted and I agree with a lot of what has been posted. It’s not just USA that does this but the UK and I imagine other western countries as well.

    Stalin was alleged to say that “a single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic”. It’s a chilling quote but I sometimes think that if terrible things happen ‘over there’ it’s far away and off the radar.

    I also think we allow the media to shape how we view things. If it’s caught on camera, if there’s mobile footage, if the media can endlessly roll with drama and emotion and breaking news it becomes self-perpetuating. It’s about ‘us’. This becomes a tragedy. If a drone attack in Afghanistan kills 24 in a wedding party, there’s no footage, the media can’t break with it, it’s ‘over there’ in a small village, TV crews can’t report from the scene, it’s not ‘us’. This becomes a statistic.

    I thought there was something very poignant about the Syrians holding up the banner of condolences to Boston.

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Alex, and I apologize for my delayed response!

      You are very right. This doesn’t only happen in the U.S. It’s funny—all of the studies that talk about how much society influences the media and, at the same time, how much the media influences society… It is only natural that we as people would focus more closely on what happens to us close to home, to our “own people,” and, yes, on what we actually have footage of. But I think we are called to be more aware and sensitive than that. If we claim to believe that all people are equal, and in the age of the Internet where we DO have access to so much information, it seems tragic to only focus on what we feel directly affects us.

      I am often reminded of this poem by John Donne:

      No Man Is An Island

      No man is an island,
      Entire of itself.
      Each is a piece of the continent,
      A part of the main.
      If a clod be washed away by the sea,
      Europe is the less.
      As well as if a promontory were.
      As well as if a manor of thine own
      Or of thine friend’s were.
      Each man’s death diminishes me,
      For I am involved in mankind.
      Therefore, send not to know
      For whom the bell tolls,
      It tolls for thee.

      I too felt that there was something very poignant about the Syrians and their banner for Boston.

    • Hey there. No, I hadn’t seen it, though I think I may have heard of it. Thanks for sharing! Yes, I agree. The good will always outweigh the bad. People are still horrified when bad things happen. No one except the bombers cheered at Boston. No one anywhere is cheering about Bangladesh. I have hope. I just wish more Americans/westerners would see these two incidents equally.

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