What is normally a great American tradition, the Boston Marathon, turned bitterly sour yesterday as someone or ones chose to wreak havoc for reasons and/or insanity as yet unknown, leaving three dead and about 130 injured, some very badly, from two explosions. There was a fire and possible explosion reported at the Kennedy library, with no reported injuries. As far as I know at the moment it is unrelated.
Most of what I just wrote, accept the exact number of dead, was known soon after the explosions, but it has prompted an incessant media storm made up primarily of speculation and “color” side stories of the those involved in one way or another.
The rise of cable news has created a weird reality unto itself. Something breaks out as the big event and everything else is forgotten.
What they do in a situation like this is not really report the news but develop a ritual of honoring and grieving and philosophizing to keep our attention. They become performers rather than reporters, since there is very little actual news to report. They fear, perhaps rightly, that if their channel doesn’t stick with the hot topic, viewers will drift elsewhere eager to learn one more detail even though most of the coverage is just endless repetition made up largely of speculation, all spoken in somber voices and with funereal faces to remind us of the seriousness of what we are watching.
It makes one feel unpatriotic not to watch, but what it there really to watch?
Of course, I am not saying such an incident doesn’t deserve attention. It pierces our collective consciousness, which is why I feel the pull to say something about it rather than about other news of the day. And there may be helpful psychic adjustments being made during this period of media mourning. But does it have to go non-stop? When is enough enough? The ratings seem the only answer to that.
They lost me early yesterday evening and in fifteen minutes of watching this morning, I realized they had nothing significant to add. But the bombings have prompted another thought I want to mention. The arbitrariness of good and bad fortune hits home here. I called friends in Boston last night and found them just fine and little more affected than I am in San Diego.
However, another friend emailed me from Florida including a photo of her brother-in-law: “my brother-in-law was running in his 28th marathon, my niece watching for him. She took this picture about 15 minutes before the explosion, but thankfully moved to get a better spot to see her dad. One of the explosions was right where she had been standing. She was only 60 feet away at the time. She was able to find out her Dad was okay after about two hours.”
So, my friend in Florida was more affected than my friends living in Boston, and might have been tragically so had her niece not looked for a better spot to see her dad.
In contrast, eight year old Martin Richard and his family embodied the worst of the tragedy. Waiting for his dad to finish the race, Martin died from one of the two explosions, while his mother, Denise, was hospitalized and reportedly underwent brain surgery last night. Also, a 6-year-old sister, whose name hasn’t been released, lost a leg. A third child was physically unharmed.
What can you say to that?
David Frum (linked in my Blogroll to your upper left) has pointed out a list of people offering their homes for those in need after the tragedy. It picked up my spirits a bit glancing at it. Directly linked here.