I have considered writing something about the Boston bombings, but was reticent to because I felt reluctant to make a point out of such a terrible thing. But today, I read something that put my point into such total focus that I felt compelled to write something.
It is sometimes insensitive, even tasteless, to put terrible events "into perspective". If you have been injured, or lost someone close to you, "perspective" doesn't do a whole lot to help. But I think it is something we need to do to put what happened in Boston into perspective.
Especially given the title quote, an abridged version of a quote in this USA Today article. According to the authors, the bombings have "already scarred American history". Although this is one of the strongest ways I've heard it phrased, it was obvious to me that the Boston bombings were taken to be quite an event for the news media. They dominated the news cycle for a week.
This makes a lot of sense. They were a terrible act, which killed three people, left many people crippled for life, and left over a hundred others with other injuries. It also left people with the fear that public places and events are not safe. All of those are very real things.
And yet, after I got over my initial shock, and saw how the media (and the public) seemed intent on riding the emotional wave for as long as possible, the cynic in me spoke out. Although the number of wounded was great, the number of dead was not. This statement might be callous, but it is also true. I thought at the time that if someone had walked into their work in a suburban Kansas City office park and killed three co-workers because they were disgruntled, it would barely survive one news cycle. And soon enough, this observation was born out: a man in Federal Way, Washington shot and killed five neighbors, presumably over relationship difficulties. Yesterday, for similarly personal reasons, a man in Illinois shot five people. From a quick look at my usual internet news sources, both of these shootings, each more deadly than the Boston bombings, have faded from the national news. Whereas the Boston bombings are believed by some, such as the authors of the quote that is my title, to be pivotal moments in American history, two different incidents in which five people were killed are just blips on the media's radar.
Its not to say that people are stupid to be concerned about what happened in Boston. For one thing, the non-fatal injuries were immense. But it is somewhat questionable why something like Boston should throw us into fear while mass shootings are seen as just local crime stories. I am not saying this to advocate a political position, especially not to make a point about gun control.
If there is one point to be made about it, it is that terrorists' main desire is for attention. If the media and the populace treat a terrorist attack like a pivotal, traumatic moment that defines us and "scars our history", and if they know they can get the spotlight for a week and shut down a major US city, then, as the cliché goes, the terrorists have already won.