Thursday, April 18, 2013


I'm not much interested in the Boston Marathon explosion events.  To my sons in Norway and Alaska, for whom Boston is right next door to home, and Copley is a recognisable place from afar, it may seem nearer, because it is literally 99% of the way home.

But we have had a death in our circle this week which will affect us more, and really, most people in New England have something in their immediate lives which looms larger. Public events are like the weather, or the sports teams: something that everyone shares with 5% of their consciousness.  Therefore, the people who make their living by dwelling in that 5% common store are all deeply involved.

I wonder why the sports teams care all that much, and wonder if they are just exploiting the tragedy for PR.  Yet I don't think so.  They live in that world.  They equate it with real life.  They are not out in Sudbury or Scituate, they are right there in BOSTON, going past all the places mentioned quite frequently.  The news people likewise - their offices are in the city. The city, the city, the city is the center.  Norwood and Natick are peripheral.  They cannot take their eyes off this, even if neighbors have death or destruction.  To the politicians the picture is clear -  what happens to them, or among them, is much more important than what happens in Boxford or Bolton.

So that's what they all talk about, as if that is obviously the most important thing happening.  I admit, a few dead and almost 200 injured is a big deal.  But the shared mentality is of the news, the politicians, and the teams combining to make it look more universal than it actually is.  OMG, the kid was from Dorchester!  Why, I go past Dorchester a lot!  A BU grad student! Oh no!  I knew some BU grad students once!

The President weighs in, and he should.  He is also a public person, and when tragedy reaches a certain threshold, it is his job to effectively say "This is very sad.  We will help pursue justice."  This president does a reasonable job at that.  But the threshold is deeply related to the local team/local news tribal bulletin board.  A hundred thousand other families have had tragedies this week that have gone unmentioned.  They just don't rate.

I don't much care about it all, except as a phenomenon I can observe in the abstract.


Dubbahdee said...

I have had similar thoughts, although it has been interesting to observe as things have unfolded, how I my separation from the events has somewhat decreased. My first impression was "Well, I was there only 4 years ago as they were setting up the bleachers for the marathon."

Now I find that an acquaintance was .2 miles from the blast at that moment. And folks from the town next door were injured. I don't know them, but they are from only a few miles away. I'm sure someone I know knows them. So now perhaps 2 degrees of separation. Almost touches me directly, but not quite really.

Even so, the breathless moment by moment coverage, the underlying assumption that we need to track every development in real time (even as nothing is developing) strikes me as odd. I see some people glued to the media -- dancing to the piper's tune because the piper says we must. "I am piping. Therefore my tune is important."

Yeah. Whatever. I have stuff to do. I'll check back later.

Sam L. said...

I vas dere, Sharley, in 19and80. I am remote from that time. Concerned, but nothing I can do.

james said...

It turns out that one of the dead (Lu) is a friend of a friend, if "friend" means someone you know and have worked with a little. I'm still distant.

I'm not sure the "lockdown" is quite as convenient for the police as they think; there are now many fewer eyes on the street.

Doug said...

Interesting to contrast the coverage for the Boston Marathon bombing to that of the fertilizer factory explosion in Texas. Haven't heard much about that on the local news...and I am far enough away from Boston to claim that news coverage is not skewed due to it actually being a local event.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Well, the factory you work in blowing up is a scary narrative, and people try to do movies about those sort of fears - trying to blame evil corporations, usually. But it's less personal. Unknown people who walk among us trying to kill us is a narrative that grips us more. More movies about that.

jaed said...

(Prophetic comment by James, I just want to note. Once allowed out, an observant citizen promptly noticed something.)