The world watched in horror yesterday as two bombs were detonated close to the Boston Marathon’s finishing line, killing at least two and injuring over a hundred. Twitter sprang into overdrive, graphic photos of the atrocity flooded the internet, and frenzied speculation about who might be responsible soon began.
But amidst the shock and sorrow, a number of people were quick to point out that over 30 people died in bombings in Iraq on the same day. And while the manner in which this fact was relayed might have been somewhat insensitive – proffered as some kind of body count one-upmanship – it does raise questions about how we apportion sympathy to lost innocent lives on account of their geographical location.
It strikes me that the real reason we found ourselves so affected by the attack in Boston is not just sympathy, but rather that it was an incident you or I could have easily been the victims of. The sweltering, burnt out streets of war torn areas in the Middle East might seem like the usual backdrop for terrorist incidents, but a sunny city in the USA? Almost unheard of, and all the more shocking for it.
The quote that was bandied around the most amidst the online chaos yesterday was one from Fred Rogers, who said: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” And in Boston yesterday, as the rolling photos, videos and reportage showed, that rang true.
But where are the helpers in Syria, or Iraq, or Afghanistan? Where are the helpers in countries that see 10 times this level of terror and destruction every day? A 50 word nib in the back pages of a newspaper reporting mass deaths in the Middle East does not compare to the front page of almost every Western news outlet demanding answers for yesterday’s horror in Boston. Why don’t we ask for answers unless it happens close to home?
What took place in the USA yesterday is an utterly tragic and shocking state of affairs, worsened by the fact an innocent child was one of the victims. But innocent children and innocent lives are taken every single day around the world by people planting explosives, and to value the death of one over the other simply because they come from somewhere similar to ourselves is just wrong. Every human life is sacred, and we should feel equally moved by the loss of one, no matter from where in the world it is taken.
Events like yesterday’s often seek to make people temporary media heroes, but Carlos Arredondo (pictured above)’s story is a truly astonishing account of the horrors some people are subjected to, and their unwavering resilience in the face of extreme adversity.