On Monday, two IEDs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three people were killed, over a hundred badly injured. The bombs used were pressure-cooker bombs. Instructions on how to make them are readily available on the Internet. I found instructions in about four minutes, using Google. Hydrogen peroxide makes a good explosive for them. The bomb-makers also filled the cookers with nails and ball bearings; shrapnel. I’m thinking, you could do it with two trips–a hardware store, and a big box retailer, for the pressure-cooker and then hit the beauty supplies aisle.
Also on Monday, on April 15, same day as the Boston bombings, six different car bombs exploded in Kirkuk, an oil town 180 miles north of Baghdad, killing 9 people. And in Tarmiyah, a policeman was killed in a drive-by. And over a hundred people wounded by car bombs in Fallujah. And Baghdad, a car bomb hit the bus station, killed 10 more. Twenty seven dead people killed by IEDs in Iraq, all told, and hundreds more wounded, all in one day.
An IED stands for Improvised Explosive Device. They were really popular in the Iraq war and also in Afghanistan. The Hurt Locker is a terrific movie about the military specialists who are tasked with bomb disposal. When I first saw the news reports from Boston, they said that two bombs had exploded, and that other, unexploded bombs had been found. This turned out not to be true, but I did think briefly of The Hurt Locker. In Boston, the bombs were apparently placed in bags and left by the roadside. Not sure what they used for detonators; apparently it involved batteries and circuit boards. As I speak, the FBI has released photos of guys who they want to talk to. Let’s hope they catch ’em.
So a bad day in America, a worse one in Iraq. The difference is, they’re pretty used to car bombs and roadside bombs and bombs generally. We’re not. So you hear phrases like ‘a loss of innocence.’ And Patriot Day, a big holiday in Boston, and the Marathon itself will never be the same. And that may well prove true.
I remember, though, going to Israel with some students, for a major conference of the International Society for Theatre Research, sponsored by the University of Tel Aviv. We’d go to these events, and our tax driver would tell us, with some relish, of terrorist attack sites as we passed them. “Right there,” he’d say. “That used to be a restaurant. Car bombing in ’93. And that corner there, hit by a rocket.” It was sort of entertainingly grisly. I think that these attacks will fit rather neatly into the Patriot Day narrative, with a minimum of tweaking. It’ll be something else we celebrate, like Lexington and Concord.
We’re still pretty innocent, we Americans. We’ve been attacked, to be sure. But I’m not convinced we’ve come to terms with it entirely. We’re used to being invulnerable, the richest country in the history of the world. The most luxurious lifestyles ever.
I spent this past week watching the Boston news, and also dealing with our cable company, being driven to distraction by their corporate phone tree. And it’s amazing to me, thinking back on it, how easily consumed I became by my personal first world problems. First world problems. I’m comfortably housed and clothed, with plenty of food, completely safe, and also blessed with literally dozens of entertainment options, spent this week upset because I had like two fewer than I was used to having.
Okay. And on Monday, Boston happened, a horrible act of terrorism. And yes, we should absolutely thank the first responders, and pray for the victims and their families, and hope they catch whoever did this. It was a terrible thing, and pointless, and cruel. But is it worth pointing out that, also on Monday, twenty seven people were killed by IEDs in Iraq. See, there’s an election coming up, and Al Queda votes with bombs. And the civil war in Syria rolls on, 70,000 dead so far. And there were terrorist attacks in Somalia this past week. And so on.
So what am I saying? I’m saying that this world is still a dangerous place, and we’re fabulously fortunate, we Americans. I’m saying that we’re the richest people who have ever lived on this planet, enjoying lives of luxury unknown to anyone else ever. We shouldn’t feel guilty over any of that, but blessed and humble and determined to share whatever we can. And we should hug out children a little tighter. I don’t have anything profound to say about any of this. Just . . . we’re so incredibly lucky.
I was momentarily inconvenienced, and spent the week wrapped in self-pity. Maybe instead I should have, I don’t know, found a way to serve. Given blood, donated money. Something. Something.