Apr 172013

Here’s a thing that happened yesterday in Seattle, the city where I work: Shortly after 10 a.m., Seattle police responded to a report of a suspicious item near 3rd and Yesler in downtown Seattle. It was a backpack left at the entrance to a bus tunnel near the county courthouse, and guards reported they had seen wires in the backpack.

The courthouse — a very busy one — was closed, and the entire area was blocked off to pedestrians and vehicles for more than an hour. The police department’s Arson Bomb Unit was dispatched to the scene.

The backpack contained a hair dryer. And no explosives.

The police department said in a blotter post: “While the Seattle Police Department has not received any information about a threat to Seattle following Monday’s tragic events in Boston, MA, the department is taking reasonable precautions to protect our community, and has increased patrols in our neighborhoods and around critical infrastructure.”

And you ain’t seen nothing yet, but if you live in the United States, you will.

This is what happens. The Twin Towers went down in a horrorshow that none of us who watched it will ever forget, and our lives were changed forever — and not just our lives. By reason or pretext of what happened that day, the U.S. went to war in two foreign nations. In Iraq, almost 4,500 U.S. soldiers have lost their lives, and by conservative estimates more than 100,000 Iraqis have died due to the conflict. More than 2,200 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan, and although estimating civilian loss of life has been much more difficult, it seems clear that tens of thousands have perished as a result of that war. Neither of those wars would have happened except for 9/11. But of course that’s not all that happened.

We spend billions of taxpayer dollars every year on enhanced security measures, and as a people we lose tens of thousands of hours every year waiting in security lines in airports and other public places. Some asshole puts explosives in his shoes, and we all take off our own shoes before getting scanned. Elderly people in wheelchairs get patted down by hand because they can’t walk through the screening devices. Now, we stand with our hands up in machines that allow TSA personnel to look at us naked (I pity the fools), and we’re monitored by security cameras virtually everywhere we go. Somewhere overhead there will be surveillance drones in increasing numbers.

People with dark skin and foreign accents get the stink-eye from their fellow citizens, regardless of where they were born, and the word “Muslim” becomes a slur directed against a black man elected twice as our President, amidst repeated demands for his goddamn birth certificate.

And now, because of the tragedy in Boston, our lives will change again. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday sent an intelligence bulletin alerting law enforcement personnel across the country (as if they needed alerting) that “The activities in Boston highlight the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to target large gatherings, including at special events, in order to inflict mass casualties.” That’s just the beginning. It seems clear that festivals, parades, and mass holiday gatherings of every kind aren’t going to be what they were. There will probably be fewer of them than before the slaughter on Patriot’s Day in Boston, and the ones that continue are going to be a lot more inconvenient.

In part, the daily restrictions on life as we used to know it can legitimately be explained as smart, careful efforts by trained professionals to keep us safe. In part, they are also explained as non-sensical bullshit that we all have to endure because no elected politician and no one responsible for establishing security protocols wants to be second-guessed the next time some maniac decides to take out a bunch of innocent civilians.

And so here we are again. Some piece of human scum, or more likely a network of them, succeed in killing or maiming more than 175 people at a famed race in one of the country’s oldest and proudest cities, and the lives of tens of millions — maybe hundreds of millions — will be changed again for the foreseeable future. Whatever their ultimate goal was, it will not succeed, of course. They will be hunted down, they will be found, the odds are they will not survive. It may take years, but it will happen. But what they did on 4/15 will not change the direction of our government’s actions — assuming that the bombings were actually designed to exert extortionate pressure, as opposed to merely exacting revenge for something done by somebody, somewhere. In other words, no good will come of it, even if “good” is defined according to the perpetrators’ own fucked-up sense of right and wrong.

Well, let me make one qualification on what I just said: If the perpetrators’ goal was to siphon off a little more joy from the daily lives of U.S. residents, that’s a goal they will probably achieve. It will not make all of us as miserable as they are, but daily life will become more of a pain in the ass than it already is.

And that’s where we need to plan our own revenge. When the motherfuckers who did this are eventually made to pay, there will be many who will fist-pump and wave our flag, and I’ll probably be one of them. But that won’t restore the lives or the severed limbs of those who became casualties in Boston on Monday, and it won’t do one damned thing to un-fuck what is now going to be even more fucked-up in the way we live each day.

No, the best revenge will be to hold on to the joy in life that’s still there to be found and relished, and to try to temper the coming security clamp-down with a little rationality and a few well-placed reminders that  for those of us outside the blast radius, no bloodthirsty turds with access to pressure cookers, explosives, and ball-bearings can rob us of the good things that make life worth living: Here in 2013, in the U.S. of A., only we can do that, to ourselves.

Speaking of holding on to the joys in life, now that I’ve gotten all this off my chest I’m now going back to listening to metal and writing about it. How’s that for a transition?

  22 Responses to “THE BEST REVENGE”

  1. Sad for all the people that good hurt. Got to agree with you on how it will change again the lives of the citizens. You talk about how people with dark skin will get the stink eye. Well image a Dominican like me getting stooped in the airport every time, since people think I’m from the middle east. Even when I lived in the States would feel the stink eye. Well hope for the best and same as you going to listen to metal abd work

    • I see this kind of discriminatory shit almost every day, even though I live in a very tolerant and pretty open-minded city. It’s such a damned shame. And we’re about to be in for a new round of it.

      • Given that no one’s claimed responsibility and the date in question, my gut says this is domestic–some b.s. about how paying income taxes isn’t in the Bible or some such crap–and even if it is, it’s not like the xenophobia will stop. I don’t remember white guys getting rounded up and stopped-and-frisked after Oklahoma City.

        But that’s my idle speculation on the topic.

    • Having the appearance of a Dominican must be tough. Someone once told me that if you look at a person and you can’t figure out what race they are, they’re probably Dominican. Hence, people will see whatever they are looking for, and you suffer the brunt of racism against every group.

  2. Pretty much says it all.

  3. Really good piece, honest and balanced. I second every word.

  4. Now you got me all worked up and toying with my ‘murrican emotions. WELL SAID, PATRIOT!


  5. I live in probably one of the last places that would ever be targeted (small-town America), but it is indeed sad (and fucked up) when something like this happens.

  6. Well written, it’s too bad that too few people realize that giving up everything we hold dear as a liberal (and I use that term in the original meaning not the American politicized one) society is “letting the terrorists win”. Having to endure sexy-time with the TSA every time you board a plane or that we now have to live with a bloated and ineffective DoHS with it’s legions of special interestes siphoning off money from better uses is exactly the wrong thing. bin Laden said his goal was for the west to lose “blood and treasure”, it’s hard to argue that we’re winning when in addition to that we’re also giving up on our values.

  7. Any advice on how to deal with this anger I feel right now?

    • I’ve been listening to black metal. 🙂

      • It’s a temporary distraction. Thy Catafalque, deafheaven and Immortal can only do so much.
        I mean, this is almost a weekly thing now – there’s always some bomb going off somewhere, or conservative bullshit getting through legislation, or somebody getting beaten raped and killed for being different (not necessarily in that order). How is one to go about one’s business without these events sucking away any moment of peace one may get? …

        • Remember that others are doing something positive with their emotions. Remember that right there at the very darkest moment of human action where someone detonated an explosion to kill and maim, others rushed into the smoke and fire to come to their aid.
          You might have seen Patton Oswalt’s tweets circulating, and their a pretty good reminder of why we should never lose hope: http://www.webpronews.com/patton-oswalt-tweets-facebooks-thoughts-on-boston-marathon-explosions-2013-04

          ““When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” -Fred Rogers (of children’s television “Mr. Rogers” fame)

  8. It will be interesting (and by “interesting” I mean “saddening”) to see where Those Who (Fail to) Protect Us will go from here. 9/11 gave them a more or less obvious place to focus–making us take off our shoes, pants, dignity, etc., at airports, but those are pretty contained environments. What do you do for a parade, foot race, or a large outdoor gathering? Are they going to lay a giant, man-sized metal pipe from Hopkinton to Back Bay next year to run the Boston Marathon in, with armed guards throughout and all runners going naked? Or (more likely), are they going to make restrictions on being a spectator so odious that the runners will basically be running through a barren DMZ? I live on the marathon route–will I have to evacuate my house?

    • I’m wondering the same thing, and there are no good answers. It’s just a fucking shame that an event like this one (and undoubtedly many others) are probably going to be degraded by whatever precautions get taken.

      I heard yesterday that even before Monday’s marathon, the very area where the bombs went off had been swept by security before the race started, which probably means there will have to be bomb-sniffing dogs and heightened police presence among the crowds DURING the event next time (if there is a next time).

  9. Well said brother!

  10. This is easily the best piece I’ve read on this tragedy/where we go from here, including Patton Oswalt’s brilliant take. Well done, hear hear, and thank you.

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