Every time there is a natural or man-made tragedy in America, we are told, “we are different – that we come together” – and that might be true. But are we so different, so detached, and so disinterested on a daily basis that we need a tragedy to come together?
Fill in the blank with your own affiliation, “We are all …….” I vividly remember during the Penn State scandal that there were thousands of students chanting, “We are Penn State.”
In response to the Soviet Union invading the former Soviet republic of Georgia, McCain said that, “We are all Georgians.”
That comment was so disingenuous that it turned me off every time I heard it. I now tend to block out chants that begin with, “We are.”
One thing I am thankful to not hearing is, “We are all Bostonians.” Why? Because it would be a knee jerk mantra to be used as a glue to artificially bring people together temporarily.
Sure, Americans care – and they care deeply when something tragic happens – whether it be a hurricane or a tornado or yes, even a bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
I lived in suburban Boston for four years while serving in the Air Force – I love Boston – the history, the culture, the uniqueness of the city and I had the financial resources I would be living there – but that is not possible on a fixed income.
All I am saying is that we really are not that different than citizens of other countries – be they Canadians or Greeks or Italians or Russians or Australians.
The media kept talking about the heroes yesterday in Boston, and believe me, there were many. Those doing the reporting said that Americans were unique because after hearing the explosions there were many running toward the explosions to help – instead of being concerned about their own lives and safety and running for cover instead of running in the direction of the blasts.
Like it or not, many of those attending the marathon, as runners or viewers, ran to help because they did not know better. That sounds harsh, but let me explain.
In countries where there are terrorist acts on a much more frequent basis, individuals close in proximity of the initial blast know there is a high probability of a second blast.
Perpetrators of such events know there will be more of an impact by setting off a second device because people have a natural tendency to want to help the injured. People reflexively run to provide assistance – but in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Libya, and Egypt (among others), people know they need to initially protect themselves by seeking shelter first and only after things quiet down do they begin to do what they would have done reflexively.
Americans are no more loving to family members or neighbors or coworkers than individuals in most countries in the world.
Another thing I want to be perfectly clear about, it is okay to grieve, to feel pain, to be afraid, to want to bring everything to a screeching halt – in effect to stop the world for a few minutes or hours while we simply sort things out.
No, we do not need to go shopping or immediately return to normal by taking kids to after school activities like baseball practice or dance lessons or yoga classes.
Doing those things proves nothing except that we want to put on a façade – i.e. show “Them” that we will not be beaten down and that we will immediately get back to normal. Getting back to normal, to me, is unnatural. I have no need to simply change batteries and start walking around aimlessly like the Energizer Bunny.
To hell with all that, I say. We all need to figure out what happened – how it affects us personally and collectively and more importantly, we need to avoid the herd mentality to engage in “group think.”
It is important to maintain our individuality because that is what gives us the wherewithal to make sound decisions – to be our best, to help others the most – otherwise we start moving in packs – walking around in circles – spreading rumors, engaging in one-upmanship. We should simply take the time to reflect – to absorb what happened and to take a breath.
I found myself watching television – no, I found myself glued to the television – even though I knew it would be filled with rumors and speculation of who did what and why – the extent of the injuries and deaths – knowing full well the numbers would escalate exponentially – so why should I get trapped in the cycle of someone releasing numbers with every blink of an eye. I also found myself flipping channels because I wanted the current death count – how many were at each hospital.
I kept waiting for clues to be released – what kind of device – whether it was set off by a timing device or triggered by a cell phone. Who was responsible – some home grown terrorist or some organized group from halfway around the world? Americans tend to want answers immediately and that is unrealistic.
I also found myself waiting for the White House to use the words terrorist or terrorism. I wanted labels attached to this event. I did not want those to the right politically bashing the President for not using a certain word or phrase.
Believe me, and you can bet your bottom dollar on this, in a matter of days, not weeks, this tragedy will become a political football.
Another thing – our governments, yes, governments, city, state, and federal, want us back on the streets almost immediately – buying shoes, going out to eat, visiting malls, while at the same time they do not want us doing other things like making a run on the banks or moving money in our 401k’s or anything else that will affect the stock markets in a negative way.
Another sad thing is that these kinds of tragedies bring out opportunists – those that jump back into the stock market the following day after the markets take their initial hit. People who do that operate in “selfish mode” by thinking and acting on “How can I best gain from this tragedy affecting the health and lives of others?” and “How can I make a quick grand or two while others are still in shock?”
In closing, I just want to assure everyone that we are not that much different from others in this world. We feel pain, we love, we care, we feel anger, we hate, we cry, and we extend a hand to others in times of need.
We are neither superior nor inferior to others around the world. We might worship a different God, we might speak a different language collectively here in America and we might dress differently – but when push comes to shove, we are human and nothing more.