“The horror… the horror…”


Marlon Brando says these words of Joseph Conrad’s, near the dark end of the deeply powerful film Apocalypse Now…

What happened last week in Boston was surely the act of a heart of great darkness.

But an uncomfortable thought still sits with me, even after the death of one, and capture of the other, of the alleged perpetrators… I’m surprised how strongly I’m feeling this – how this Demon In A Box just won’t go away. I want to be filled only with patriotism, and shock, and grief, and – now – some sort of relief. On some level, I am… But not entirely. There is this Demon that will not take its leave of me…

This Demon is the awareness that this kind of thing happens all the time in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Miserystan, and all over the world. It happens where people gather to pray, and at markets, coffee shops, weddings, funerals, anywhere… Eight-year-old Afghan children are blown to bits in an instant; Pakistani mothers have their arms or legs torn from their bodies by concussive weapons; hundreds of people are killed, or suffer horrendous injuries, with soul-numbing regularity.

And none of them are taken to Mass General, or Brigham and Women’s, or Beth Israel, or any of the other world-class medical facilities that exist in Boston. They simply bleed and die on the streets of their villages… There are no non-stop “special reports,” no massive manhunts, no promises made that those responsible will feel “the full weight of justice.” Their families and loved ones feel only the crushing weight of grief.

And we feel next to nothing.

When this kind of thing happens here, it is an “unspeakable crime against the innocent.” When it happens there, it is “collateral damage” – just another news bite, before dinner. Then, suddenly, we feel the Universe has tilted, and that something has somehow gone horribly “wrong,” when it happens in our front yard, in what has become, for at least a week, our Boston.

It’s horribly wrong when it happens anywhere… That’s the Demon thought that refuses to leave me alone – that the Universe sees no difference between Kabul and Boston, and does not judge the good or evil of any human action on the basis of geography.

This Demon will not let me sit comfortably with the thought that Boston is somehow “different”… That, somehow, bystanders in Boston are more innocent than bystanders in Kabul… And that the perpetrators of such carnage here are more evil than the perpetrators of the same carnage there… Especially if those perpetrators, in some cases, are ourselves.

I think this particular Demon must be my conscience – and today it does not seem willing to be contained.