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?