As news of the Boston Marathon explosions broke most, if not all, of our media coverage was disrupted as they broadcast live developments. As news trickled in and a clearer picture was available we were able to call it what it is, a bombing. Three people have lost their lives and over 150 people were injured, many seriously. We mourn this loss of life. This morning, I read of another bombing. Thirty-three people killed, 160 wounded in a series of morning explosions that went off in numerous cities. This too happened on April 15, but there was significantly limited coverage of this story. Why? Because these bombings happened in Iraq.
The blasts went off simultaneously in Baghdad, Fallujah, Tikrit, Samarra and Hilla. All the bombs went off in the early morning rush hour, as the perpetrators sought to inflict the most damage. A resident of Kirkuk screams, “What have those innocent people done to deserve this?”
Like Boston, no group or individual has claimed responsibility for the attack on Monday. Why hadn’t I heard of this story, of these people who were experiencing such a similar tragedy? I can only speak for how I personally have viewed the news, from the comfort of my living room here in Chicago. Iraq and Afghanistan seem so far away, a world of endless bombings seems so far removed from my reality. Somehow, I've been able to hear about bombings in Iraq or elsewhere and then go about my life, easily navigating through my daily routine with little additional thought to those killed over 6,000 miles away. Shame on me.
But yesterday, I couldn’t tear myself away from the news. I sat rooted to my seat, compelling myself to read everything I could about the story. Trying to find connections, trying to understand what, who, why this happened. The dazed expressions that flooded my computer screen seemed all too familiar. They are the same faces we’ve seen hundreds of times before. It's the haunted expression caused by utter devastation, as minds falter and emotions fail, in the moments before we understand what has happened.
When we speak of the Boston Marathon, we will call it a tragedy. When we speak about the bombings in Iraq, we tend to avoid such language. Surely the death of 33 people is a tragedy no matter where it happens? People will point out to me that people die every day in tragic events, that the news can’t possibly devote the same amount of time to them all. That’s true, but I’m not asking for equal news time. It’s not about keeping a score card for determining whose tragedy is worse or to determine which horrific act of violence is more befitting of more news coverage. If that were the case, surely the continued slaughter of civilians in Syria would be worth more than a passing mention.
The bombing in Boston will bring us closer together for a few days—maybe longer—as national tragedies tend to do. We will be reminded that we are, each of us, Americans and that we aren’t all that different. We are clearly struck personally by the events in Boston because they are so much closer to us in proximity, because we can see ourselves reflected in the people we see on the news. But, I must force myself to ask why must I only be allowed to feel a tragedy as an American? I must feel just as sad, mourn the loss of life just as much for those people in Iraq.
Intolerance, violence, and hatred is perpetuated by the differences we create. How many degrees of separation can I put in between myself and everyone else? If I remove myself far enough from someone, do they cease to matter as much, or at all? As we mourn the loss of life in Boston and the terrible carnage that only a intolerance and hatred can breed, we must too mourn the loss of life that is caused by hatred and intolerance everywhere. Every time it happens, if I do not feel a significant sense of loss or sadness, what does that actually end up saying about me—about all of us? I don’t know. I would hate to think that it meant I was becoming used to seeing this carnage—used to seeing the horrific look on faces just because they didn’t resemble my own.
The Boston Marathon bombing brings us closer to the reality that so many experience every single day. Now is the time to reject violence everywhere. Now is the time to reject intolerance everywhere. We are all finite beings. We must see that the death of an eight-year-old little boy is a tragedy in Iraq, in America—anywhere.
Is this too idealist for the way the real world works? I don't know. Does that matter? Does that mean we shouldn't at least try to better understand one another? Isn't that what people who commit acts of violence prey upon? Our continued willingness to view one another with skepticism because they might look, think, act differently? Well, I reject that notion, and so should you because we can do more. We can certainly do better than this.