I spent yesterday listening to the news of the Boston Marathon bombings on the radio, because I have no TV where I’m currently staying. If I had TV, I would have been glued to it, watching obsessively. But this time, I kept turning the radio off, and walking upstairs to try and work. The work didn’t happen, and I knew it wasn’t going to. I found it hard to go back to the radio. Each time I heard someone talk about all the limbs lost, I froze inside, feeling ill. I’ve stood next to a car bomb when it exploded and know something of the terror it causes. Everything disappears, your body shifts into auto-pilot, and you start running. A feeling of pure, blind panic fills you from head to foot. I also lived through 9/11 in New York City and vividly recall walking around for a week feeling numb inside, no longer sure what day it was.
The deep sadness I felt at the news of the bombing, and the slowly mounting death toll, was infected by another kind of sadness. I kept thinking about the bombs that still regularly go off in the streets of Baghdad and Kabul, and in the provinces of Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of those bombs kill as many as sixty people in a single blast and injure hundreds more, and they happen because of the instability caused by our invasions. I was never a supporter of the war in Iraq, though I did support the war in Afghanistan and believed we had a purpose in that fight. It makes me feel ill today thinking that every week in both those countries there are bombs exploding far more powerful than the two bombs that devastated the Boson Marathon. Car bombs, IEDs, mortars, mines, our own bombs.
The last thing I want to do is diminish the terror and pain and loss and grief felt by those in Boston, and by their family and friends in other parts of the country or the world. I’m grieved and shocked by it, and want the perpetrators brought to justice, be they home-grown right wing nutcases or Al Qaida-sympathsizing goons. But as I sit here thinking of the loss and grief, I cannot help but think of my own complicity in the ongoing loss and grief of families in Iraq and Afghanistan, however worthy or unworthy the cause might have been. In some parts of the world, it’s Boston every day, and though I don’t like to admit it, as an American, I helped to make that happen.
So my thoughts are with the people of Boston. They deserve our good wishes and prayers. But they are also with grieving families in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in other battlefields in this past decade of wars. Let us try and build a decade where no one has to grow up with the sound of bomb blasts ringing in their ears.