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Boston Bombing, Selective Compassion, and the "Muslim Factor"

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Watching television coverage of the Boston Bombings last week, I reacted in the same way I'm sure most other Americans did. My thoughts, my heart, my sympathies, my condolences--my everything--went out to the people of Boston, especially to the families who lost a loved one and to those who were injured.

What a terrible tragedy this was! Not only was a day of rejoicing reduced to death and mourning, but a blow was struck at the very embodiments of Patriots Day: the Marathon runners who sought to raise thousands, if not millions, of dollars for worthy causes, including those related to the recent Sandy Hook tragedy. 

As to the perpetrators of the tragedy, what could be more despicable than to launch such an attack on such a day and transform it to a living hell? First, there were the noise and horror of the explosions, the smoke billowing upwards, and the nails, pellets and shrapnel flying all over. And who can ever forget the effects of the bombings? Suddenly, spectators who had come to watch and cheer on the running of others were themselves forced to run as they had never run in their lives before. Many ran helter-skelter trying to find escape routes, entering stores and exiting from back doors onto an adjoining street. And some never made it. Dismembered limbs littered Boylston Street, and blood ran all over.

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The tragedy also directly affected people who neither attended nor participated in the Marathon. Many who sought assurance that family members involved in the event were safe could not get through to them by phone, as cell phones at the scene had gone dead.

Similar frustrations confronted First Responders who rushed in to tend to the injured. Patients with severed limbs and children with severe burns had to be treated in a temporary medical tent. 

The entire situation could be described by the single word: mayhem. Or in two words: Complete chaos. What had been a bustling scene of cheers, hope, victory, and rejoicing had suddenly turned into a war zone: three people, one of them an eight-year-old boy, dead; nearly 200 injured, 16 critically; several with a limb missing, at least four with their legs amputated in the hospital; shrapnel nails sticking out of a girl's body.

Imagine the fear of those at the scene. The anxiety of their loved ones. The desperation of those trying to contact them.

In reality, there was no need to imagine all this. Images projected round -the-clock on TV screens showed the unimaginable horror and tragedy in stark, literal, and graphic detail. As I watched, I felt as if I was actually a part of the event. I've suffered tragedy and fear myself, so the whole scene became especially personal and palpable for me.

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Don't Those Who Suffer Elsewhere Also Deserve Compassion?

I was glued to the TV until well past midnight. When I finally dozed off, I had a very disturbed sleep and was back watching TV as soon as I got up. At that point, a myriad of thoughts and emotions ran through me.

One of the things I greatly appreciated was that President Obama lost no time in going on the air and telling the nation that the authorities did not yet know who was behind the bombings. He urged caution in assigning blame. "We still do not know who did this, or why, and people shouldn't jump to conclusions before we have all the facts," he said.

Yet, I was also struck by the contrast between what had happened in Boston and what happens in other parts of the world. It hit home with me that in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and elsewhere such horror and tragedy do not occur once in a blue moon. They are a routine daily occurrence. Drone bombers buzz overhead twenty-four hours a day. People huddle in fear, not knowing when a missile--or, in other cases, bombs--might swoop down on them, obliterating their home and killing or paralyzing them or their loved ones. When that does happen and all hell breaks loose, there are no first responders to rush in and tend to the injuries. And very frequently, many more than three people die.

In fact, just a few days before the Boston bombings, a NATO air attack in the Shigal district of Afghanistan's embattled Kunar province killed at least 18 people, including as many as 11 innocent children. There was no ambiguity as to who had killed them and how. They were killed by a NATO air strike.

It occurred to me that, though these tragic occurrences are often far worse than what happened at Boston or at Sandy Hook, they receive very little coverage, if any at all, in the American media. Consequently, neither those who suffer grievously or die ingloriously in such events receive sympathy or condolences or support from any American. No American tears are shed for them. What a contrast this is to the round-the-clock TV coverage in the U.S. of the Sandy Hook shootings and the Boston bombings!

The Boston Bombings and Anti-Islamist Bigotry

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Though I was bothered by my reflections on the selective compassion routinely demonstrated by the American media, I found even more disturbing the anti-Islamist bigotry that made itself quickly apparent following the Boston bombings. Ignoring an explicit appeal by none other than the President himself, some voices did not hesitate to blame Muslims for the tragedy.

For example, in response to the Boston attack, one contributor at Fox News, Eric Rush, tweeted--then deleted--what he claimed was a joke about rounding up Saudis and killing them.

When one Bill Schmalfeldt tweeted back, "Sweet God. Are you ALREADY BLAMING MUSLIMS??" Eric replied, "Yes they're evil. Let's kill them all." Though Eric deleted his original tweets, in later messages he called his critics "Islamic apologist worms" and "vermin."

Under the screaming headline "FBI grills Saudi man in Boston bombings," the New York Post claimed that a "Saudi National" had been taken "into custody" by police at a local Boston hospital. In its initial stories the paper reported that the Saudi was "identified as a suspect."

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I am a journalsit, writer and a justice-and-peace activist. I am also involved in safeguarding and promoting the rights of undocumented immigrants in USA. Originally from Bombay (now Mumbai) I have been residing in USA from 1982. My articles and (more...)
 

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