Disabling the winning formula, working to change the usual conversation


Last Friday my second post about the aftermath of the Boston Marathon came shortly after the identity of the suspects in the bombings were given faces and names.

Subsequent there have been tens of thousands of words about, especially, the one surviving suspect in the case, a true-blue young “Caucasian” (white, in other words), from the very region which gives Caucasian its name. The indicted young man has a funny name. While a naturalized citizen he’s an immigrant, a Moslem from a Moslem country. And his brother, now deceased, went to Russia at some point for reasons as yet unknown, but feverishly speculated about.

The tragedy is no longer the story. The alleged perpetrators provide endless spin especially for earnest sounding politicians and the media. The blather is constant.

The Boston Marathon tragedy has been reduced to digestible sound bites, depending on the desired message and audience: “MOSLEM”, “MOTHERS SONS”, “IMMIGRANT”, “FRIEND”, “CHECHEN”, U.S. CITIZEN, etc.

Words are dispensed to humanize, or de-humanize, persons. Are they of our “tribe” or theirs?

So, while the brothers are white, there is a desire to taint them by geography, by possible association, and on and on.

What is happening in this case is not new, of course.

However dangerous, “us vs them” is politically useful and has a very long history. The reach of all forms of media now makes it more dangerous than ever.

Sunday, at Catholic Mass, the first reading (which is required in every Catholic Church) was from ACTS 13:14, 43-52, in which “The Jews…stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their territory.” The reading is here: 1 Acts 13001

It bothered me to hear that Epistle (it comes once every three years) since I thought my Catholic Church was getting past labeling the Jews in its official narrative.

The Bible is a big book, and there are plenty of choices of readings. Why this one?

Fourteen years ago, April 26, 2000, we were among 40 Jews and Christians on a “Millennium Pilgrimage of Hope” which led us to places where Christianity truly went off the rails: places like Auschwitz-Birkenau and Terezin and Plaskow (the locale of the film “Shindler’s List.)

To say ours was an intense two weeks was an understatement: Christian and Jews together at the very places of some of the worst horrors of the Holocaust.

Back home, some months later, one of the Jews on the trip sent a review of a book on Oberammergau Passion Play (“Hitler’s favorite passion play…” which had its own impact. You can read the review here: Oberammergau001

Some years earlier, on the 60th anniversary of the first Atom bomb at Hiroshima, I had occasion to write a column for the Minneapolis Star Tribune about my grandmother Rosa’s reaction to the bombing of Hiroshima and then Nagasaki.

Rosa was a saintly kind of woman, and her reaction to the bombs was “Hurrah, the old war is over!” At the time, she had a son on a Destroyer in the Pacific theatre; a son-in-law who’d been killed at Pearl Harbor; a nephew next farm over who was a Marine officer in the Pacific; and a neighbor who had been killed in combat “over there”.

For her, the war had become very personal.

I wrote in the column that to Grandma, and most of our American “tribe” I would guess, “the war was very personal, in the person of their brother, their son, their nephew, their neighbor; those on the other side were simply “the Japs”.” (The column can be read here: Atomic Bomb 1945001

If we care about the future of our “kind”, which is humanity itself, wherever these humans live, we best learn to become a world community and reject the attempts to blanket label others and threaten war at every real or imagined time of crisis.

We need to deal with criminal behavior as just that: criminal behavior.

There was never a good time for war; today, the time for war is truly past.