People around the world have seen the headlines regarding the bombings in Boston this past week. Many were injured, several were killed. The news channels descended on Boston, the headlines blared the news and even the president got involved. Why? It seems that America has become a country that makes an event out of tragedy — but not all tragedies.
If we focused solely on the numbers of injured and killed, the atrocity in Boston would be a low-profile incident. How many people died this week in automobile accidents as a result of texting while driving? What about people killed by drunk drivers? Are we outraged by death and injury of all types, or have we become selective?
I’ve pondered this question for quite some time, and I think I may have stumbled upon an answer. We, as Americans, like to have someone to blame for such mayhem, and we prefer not to shoulder any of the blame ourselves. We need scapegoats to avoid assuming the blame.
Let’s use Boston as an example: The people responsible for the bombings aren’t like us. They’re sadistic, heartless monsters. We feel pretty safe reconciling our hatred toward them, and for most, that’s perfectly acceptable. But when we talk about deaths from texting while driving, or drunk driving or the like, we know the culprits. As Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” As long as the enemy is a faceless monster, that’s just fine. When someone is killed by a texting driver, the “monster” might well be our precious 17-year-old son or daughter. The drunk driver could be good old Uncle Frank or our brother Jim.
Isn’t it time to treat all death and destruction in our great country with the same vengeance? Will the president be present at the burial of three or four homeless Vietnam veterans who died from hyperthermia? I doubt it. They served their country, but we can ignore their plight because, for the most part, they’re invisible and we feel no responsibility for invisible people.