Sunday, 21 April 2013

Manhunt in Boston

Have you seen the television show called “Mantracker”? It’s a game show where two contestants travel cross-country by foot, while tracked by two men on horseback. The contestants’ goal is to reach the prize before they’re hunted down. I haven’t watched a whole episode because when I tried, all I could think of is the way white men used to hunt black families who dashed through the woods, trying to escape the prison of slavery. With guns and dogs the slave “owners” would track down human beings like prey, merciless in their greedy pursuit. 

Strangely, some of the response to last week's horrific bombing reminded me of these hunting stories. Before tears of lament could even dampen the streets of Boston, the lust for revenge welled up like a flood. 
“Who did this? Get them!” The American President assured that the perpetrators would "feel the full weight of justice".
A real time manhunt began, a hunt that took on undertones of both a televised game and slavery's xenophobic hatred. I wondered about this reaction to such a sad event as the marathon attack. 

Like buzzing wasps, mass media swarmed in their race for the scoop, “How do you feel? Here, talk into the mic. How do you feel? (not that I care, but I really want a sound bite)."  And millions of us watched.

I flipped from one news channel to another, transfixed by the phenomenon of reporters who had to keep talking when there was nothing new to say. They dutifully filled the hours by repeating the few known facts, accompanied by the same ghastly videos looping over and over. The commentators seemed like ventriloquists' dummies, animated by their profit-hungry bosses. Media competition was so excessive that even an entertainment reporter expressed shame at the behaviour. 

Mid-week, new tragedy in small-town Texas interrupted the Boston story. In a much bigger explosion, fourteen people had died, and many others were injured. With no iconic terrorists or drawn guns, out there in the middle of nowhere, media refocussed on the manhunt in Boston. It was more exciting to watch the chase. Had they found the bombers yet? Grieving Texans got short shrift

It wasn’t only media caught in the frenzy. One police spokesperson was so aroused by the hunt that at the victorious press conference he mentioned confidential evidence that made one security expert gasp in surprise. Adrenalin had trumped the officer's professional discretion.

Fans of the winning team cheered and waved flags as the armoured cars pulled off the playing field of Watertown.They might as well have chanted, “We’re number one!” 
Are we glad then, that a 26 year old was shot to death? Really? Wouldn't a saddened silence have been more appropriate? Did the unprecedented actions by law enforcement who locked down a whole town, ease the heart of bombing victims like poor William Richard? His 8 yr. old son was killed, his 6 yr. old daughter permanently maimed, and his wife brain-injured. Unspeakable grief. 

Who doesn't want to turn away from such senseless suffering and celebrate a win instead?

The problem is that we despise painful feelings that spotlight our helplessness; instead, we revere power and control. Because anger inflates our self-righteous pecs, whereas grief turns us into helpless weepers, we choose anger. We become haters in the blink of an eye, looking for scapegoats to bear our unbearable pain. In fact, that may be why the possibility of a Someone infinitely greater than humanity is unthinkable to many. We don’t want to admit dependence on Someone we can neither understand nor control.

Sadly, the dark side of American patriotism foments callousness toward the "other". As long as prideful arrogance is honoured, peace will never reign. Even respected Christian writer Philip Yancey, in his blog response to the Boston tragedy, can’t seem to get over his sense of American superiority  
How often do the rest of us hear Americans boasting that theirs is “the greatest country in the world”? Admittedly, such nonsense has infected Canada, too, where I scoff every time a politician calls ours the best country in the world. I yell at the screen, ”How would you know?! And what does ‘best’ even mean?” In fact, such arrogance is global, though gratingly hypocritical from a self-proclaimed "Christian" country.

O, Source of all that is good, in Your patience, show us that flexing vengeful muscles is fruitless, only a distraction from our painful inadequacy.
O, God of the galaxies, give us the courage to lament loud and long over human evil, including our own. Help us to recognize both societal injustices and our own judgemental hearts. Heal us and motivate us by Your invincible, forgiving love. Amen.