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Boston Strong

Quite the one-week news cycle. From my somewhat skewed perspective, there are two distinct sides to the recent occurrences in Boston. There are the facts, which in this case are blatantly disturbing: innocent people losing their lives and limbs for no defensible reason. Long after all of this has receded from the general public’s frontal lobe, others will be absent legs and family members. Their reminders will be permanent and require no ‘Breaking News’ updates flashing across the bottom of the TV screen. And then there’s the spin. At every turn last week we were being told how to feel – more safe, less safe, contemplative, outraged, angry, sad, confused. Opposing political news outlets reminded us that there was no room for partisanship and that “at times like this we are all Americans.” Then they spun it anyway.

Despite the appalling human tragedy this stuff is tailor-made for the modern news and information era. The combined elements of this story created an unusually suitable mix for instantly disseminated images and information. General precepts of terrorism – fostering unease by creating a vague and undefinable enemy – are perfectly suited to 24 hour news updates and every citizen being dubbed a reporter by virtue of owning a camera phone. As the concluding chapter unfolded very early Friday morning I was way ahead of any news station. There were reports of a shooting at MIT and a car chase leading out of Boston proper in to Watertown. I typed “Watertown” in to Google and was instantly connected to people posting live tweets and Google+ status updates about federal vehicles and explosions filling the streets outside their homes. The days of Walter Cronkite breaking the news about JFK are in the pterodactyl pile.

And yet with all of this newly-infused technology, the human response still seemed curiously predated and predictable. I should be careful where I tread here, lest I be misunderstood. I’m an abnormally patriotic sort in my own right, prone to displaying large reserves of civic and national pride. But something about the “USA!” chants, “Boston Strong” logos, and fervent crowd-singing of the national anthem at a hockey game puzzled me. Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz whipped the crowd at Fenway in to a frenzy by proclaiming “thees ees our fuckin’ city” in his Dominican accent. His language was endorsed by none other than FCC chairman Julius Genachowski who said that Ortiz ‘spoke from the heart’ and asserted “I stand with Big Papi and the people of Boston.” Yeah .. way to not play it safe, Julius. Janet Jackson flashes a little titty at the Super Bowl and is banned for life, but thousands of kids watching a Red Sox game should be fuckin’ on board with this one.

Getting to the “don’t get me wrong part” part .. I understand that it’s important and even healthy to have a sense of who we are as a people. And I react even less favorably to this “national shame” shit when promoted for the purpose of political posturing from either side. I’m just not sure who we’re yelling “USA!” at on this one. A twelve-man sleeper cell spread out in various low-rent digs across the country? A terribly misguided 19 year-old from Chechnya who wears a backwards ball-cap and bears striking resemblance to Tom Petty’s ex bass player? It all feels a bit hollow in light of this rather random, senseless and terribly damaging act. I don’t need a common enemy to feel good about America or cities like New York, Boston, and San Francisco .. and even if I did it wouldn’t make me feel any better about what happened to those people on Boylston Street.

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