Eric, over at SOTSOGM, was kind enough to link to my previous post, so I’d like to return the favor and direct you to his troubling meditation on the often-fruitless search for meaning in horrendous acts of violence:
[W]e try to construct narratives from the misinformation and chaos following the death of John Kennedy, for instance, and we end up with garbage in and garbage out…. [M]aybe if that little egomaniac Ruby hadn’t decided to be some kind of vigilante “hero” we’d have been able to hear enough of Lee Oswald’s self-aggrandizing narcissistic horseshit from his own mouth to realize no secret cabal on Earth would trust the guy with a water pistol, but instead we’ve had fifty years of stories about false autopsies, impossible bullets, and guys who couldn’t successfully break into an office building on their third try without being caught by the rent-a-cop getting credit for the crime of the century.
I’d also like to point out Richard Kim’s inquiry, at The Nation, into exactly what we mean by “violence”:
Ask yourself this: Do you know the name of any one of the victims killed in the West Chemical and Fertilizer Company disaster? Do you know how many of them there were? Their ages, aspirations, what they looked like, whether they left behind children or what messages they last posted on Facebook? Do you know if there is an explanation yet for what caused the explosion? Or if investigators are still searching for one?
You probably don’t know the answer to any of these questions, and I didn’t either until I started writing this article….
I do, however, know the names and faces of Sean Collier, Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard and Lu Lingzhi….
What separates these victims from one other? Surely not innocence, for they were all innocent, and they all deserve to be mourned. And yet the blunt and awful truth is that, as a nation, we pay orders of magnitude more attention to the victims of terrorism than we do to the over 4,500 Americans killed each year while on the job. As former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis once put it, “every day in America, 13 people go to work and never come home.” Very little is ever said in public about the vast majority of these violent and unnecessary deaths. And even when a spectacular tragedy manages to capture our collective attention—as the West explosion briefly did, as the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster did three years before—it is inconceivable that such an event would be constituted as a permanent emergency of world-historic proportions.
(h/t to my friend Devon at 99Rise, who posted this on Facebook)
Ken White of Popehat has a useful rundown of the criminal complaint against Tsarnaev.
And — this may or may not prove relevant — the Council on Foreign Relations has a basic primer on Chechnya here. I make no warrant that it is the best source available on the subject — some of the information has that “experts say…” vagueness that I find maddening. But it’s clear and it covers the basic facts.
UPDATE: Ed of Gin and Tacos points out that Boston handled the crisis with aplomb, and that preparedness and good police work, not invulnerability, should be our watchwords when thinking about terrorism.