Late last night I saw on Twitter news reports coming in about the twin bombings at the Boston Marathon. I saw the photographs of bloodied runners on the ground, read the stories about how people had their legs and ankles blown off. I heard that an 8 year old boy died from the bombs.
I lived in Boston for six years and stood on the road outside Wellesley College to cheer on the marathon runners as they passed through the town on the marathon route. It was called the "Scream Tunnel" because we would scream and cheer so loudly for the runners that it would be overwhelming to them. They'd often say that passing through Wellesley was the best part of the marathon.
Now I live in Pakistan, where I've seen countless bombings and countless news reports of people being killed in those bombs. I've seen pictures of mosques and imambargahs with blood on the ceilings. I've seen the burnt out husks of buildings and buses hit by bombs in Karachi, and heard and seen of far more coming from all the other cities and towns of Pakistan.
Last night and this morning I've been seeing people making comments stating "Now they know what we feel like" or posting links to articles about the US killing 30 people in Afghanistan at a wedding party yesterday.¹ People are remarking that nobody cares when the bombing takes place in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan or Palestine, but that everyone cries when it happens in America because the media draws global attention to those rare events.
I also see people unable to refuse the temptation to draw comparisons between the Boston Marathon bombing and US drone attacks in northern Pakistan.
However, I feel it's very dangerous to make these kinds of comments because it implies there is a connection between the perpetrators of the Marathon bombing and the victims of US drone attacks or bombings halfway around the world. It also implies the Marathon was bombed in direct retaliation for these attacks, such as the bombing of the Afghan wedding party or similar American attacks on "Muslim" soil (can the earth have a religion?).
While one could argue that these events are cosmically linked, as in the adage "What goes around comes around", the far more nuanced truth is that the Boston Marathon bombing shows us bombs and terrorism are a global phenomenon, one which nobody on earth is safe from in any country, the US included.
A friend of mine while walking in Toronto yesterday was screamed at by a white man who said "Fucking Paki bomber" and spat on his face. We have to restrain ourselves from the same kind of hysterical reactionism on the other side of the equation, so that the hysteria and the blame and fear-mongering don't spiral out of control, as so many would like it to.
If we don't hold ourselves back, the world will be more divided than ever. I don't want that to happen and neither should you.
2:05 AM CST Clarification: Thanks to the Daily Mail not time-stamping its articles, somehow a trend grew yesterday that saw multiple websites incorrectly republishing a 2002 headline that stated: "US bomb kills 30 at Afghan wedding." The article is circulating as having occurred on the same day as the Boston bombing, which accounts for the incorrect reference in the article above.
That said, there was a deadly string of bomb attacks in Iraq the same day that left 55 dead and over 300 wounded.
It's also true that regardless of what year this U.S. bombing occurred, the loss of innocent life is no less tragic. In fact it is perhaps even more disheartening when we realize that the terrorism committed by governments is far more within our control and could be prevented by citizen action than the actions of individuals.
But perhaps that is also the silver lining. We may not be able to stop lone acts of terrorism, but we can work to stop our own governments from waging wars of terror via peaceful means.