The events in Boston this week offer us an opportunity to understand how our nation has not learned to deal with trauma. How we refuse to look at ourselves as both victims and as aggressors. How the plot is much more complicated than a simple “us vs. them” narrative and how the political is always personal. And how we seem to be much more comfortable talking about our need to be protected from pain, and refuse to acknowledge the 45 inmates on hunger strike in Guantanamo who are, right now, being force-fed through their noses. Why should we require ourselves to think of them, or of all the people who have been killed in the name of “freedom”? Because violence doesn’t travel in only one direction, it’s cyclical.
Wrapped in discourses of increase militarism, aggression and power, the United States is afraid to look at how the horrific actions of these two young men, not only says something about them, but also and more importantly, tells us something about ourselves, as we refuse to analyze our own culture of violence. We refuse to admit our pain. Instead of healing, we focus on attacking. We ask for more guns, instead of more childhood education, more police and more drones and less compassion. As a nation we continue to give 47-cents of every dollar we make in federal income taxes to pay for current and past wars (War Resistance League). At the same time, education, healthcare and services to the nearly 100 million people living in poverty in this country, get only pennies on every dollar.
Whatever we will come to know about these two young men and the history that led them towards such violent acts, whether it turns out to be a narrative similar more to Columbine than al Queda, we need to be mindful that they are a product of our times. We live in a war culture that promotes violence and competition. Whether in leader led relationships, or military style education and work spaces, our ideology reflects a discourse of aggression. Whether we publicly talk about hunting terrorists, or claim that we strongly believe in competition at work or in schools, we promote discourses of domination and subjugation.
After Tsarnaev arrest, some suggested he should be treated as an enemy combatant for the purpose of interrogation. Yet, I would like to urge all of us to remember that how we respond to him is a reflection of the type of society and world we have become. So let us ask ourselves: are we compassionate? Or, are we so afraid to show our humanity that we’ve become like our worse aggressors.