Time To Lace Up

We’re at the starting line.

I know we just toasted first responders and law enforcement and the amazing race participant who identified the kids with the backpacks. You didn’t imagine the victory beer. It was delicious, and hopefully Irish because, well, Boston. Social media networks exploded with exuberance and then exhaled a collective, exhausted sigh of relief.

That all happened. The police department – despite being outfitted in martial law-style gear for the day – exhibited restraint many didn’t expect and captured 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev injured, but alive. Hopefully, in the coming days and weeks we will learn more about these young brothers as Boston cleans the debris from its streets.

What fills the void while we await further investigation and fact is a monumental avalanche of speculation. Surely you’ve noticed the media conjecture bonanza that flooded your ear holes and pummelled your eyes. You couldn’t have missed it if you lived under a rock. It would have to be a rock without an internet connection. Or cable. Or chatty passersby.

Dylan Byers of Politico seized the opportunity the day after the bombing:

I want to know the cause — not because I’m eager to politicize the tragedy, but because I want to know where our national conversation is headed. A great deal of political, financial and emotional capital depends on the answer to that question.

And then he talks time frame:

Unfortunately, there is little indication of when we’ll have an answer. It could just as easily come five minutes from now as five days from now.

Five days from now? You thought you could guess at how soon we’d have answers the DAY AFTER the event? We didn’t even have suspects. The New York Post hadn’t even had time to implicate innocent people. How much perspective must you lack to begin to presume that there would be answers in a discernible, quantifiable period of time? And the nerve it takes to pretend you aren’t “eager to politicize the tragedy.” Bullshit; you’re transparent.

Byers wasn’t alone. The urge to prognosticate and proliferate perfunctory punditry was bombarding the airwaves and interwebs. Surprisingly, it was Rudy Giuliani who hit the rhetorical brakes on Hardball during the manhunt April 19th. When Mr. 9/11 would like the corporate media to chill the hell out, that should be an ear-piercing wake-up call.

I don’t think we should take the bait…The reality is we shouldn’t let these two whatever they are – maniacs – start making decisions for us about our geopolitical position.

Matthews shifted course and praised the uncle for denouncing them and distancing his heritage from the acts of his nephews.

Giuliani then pointed out the rarity of attacks since 9/11.

I know the reaction now is to kind of overreact a bit, but [the Obama administration] has kept us pretty darn safe….People in this country do not face, as the greatest risk to them, terrorism. There are far more risks that we face that are greater than terrorism, so let’s not overdo it. Let’s have a sensible response…let’s not get people all upset about terrorism.

The former NYC mayor ended with a point activists with an aversion to any appearance of a police state would have been proud to proffer:

Resiliency is a great defense to terrorism.

Absolutely. In the midst of a manhunt, the man who’s entire presidential platform was terrorism-based is asking the politicians and media personalities to be responsible with a call for resiliency rather than overreaction. Perhaps he has learned something that I fear our legislators have not.

Be aware that the media freak out is just a prelude to – and, in the case of some outlets, a cover for – legislation at every governmental level in this country. Lest you think I’m overly pessimistic or simply an “emo-prog” (can we do away with that bizarre, faux derogatory term already?), current office holders grabbed quick hold of the Boston Marathon as the excuse they’ve been waiting for.

Texas Representative Louie Gohmert wasted no time whipping out anti-immigrant rhetoric with a statement I can’t even make sense of:

We know Al Qaeda has camps over with the drug cartels on the other side of the Mexican border. We know that people that are now being trained to come in and act like Hispanic when they are radical Islamist.

Huh?

His fellow Republican Representative, Steve King (IA) wants reviews of student visas because a Saudi man who was injured in the blast and then tackled happened to be questioned by police. Forget that he was immediately released and widely reported as a victim; King sees a lesson to be learned here about upcoming immigration reform bills.

Republican mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh put misogyny on hold temporarily to spout off about the attack in Boston being used as an excuse for background checks getting “ramrodded through.” I can’t believe I’m half agreeing with him, but I certainly see the bombing as right-wing fodder to shift the debate on gun regulation and reform.

Arkansas state senator Nate Bell was the first caught blurting out his thoughts on Twitter:

I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine? #2A

The all-out bombardment his account received calling him everything from “a horrible human without a heart or soul” to an “ignorant douchebag” warmed my liberal heart. Bell, of course, quickly issued an apology for the “timing” of the statement – your prototypical non-apology. I don’t expect him or his NRA-funded cohorts to drop the personal protection angle any time, well, ever.

New York state senator Greg Ball took it one step further, calling for the torture of the captured 19-year-old suspect. Lest you ignore the idiocy because you don’t live in his district, remember that today’s state legislators are tomorrow’s Congressmen and women.

Upstart state reps aren’t the only ones demanding we ignore the personal rights afforded this American citizen by the Constitution they feign to love. Lindsey Graham hardly paused to inhale before exhaling a string of nonsensical talking points including the phrase “enemy combatant.”

I strongly disagree with the Obama administration’s decision to rule out the enemy combatant status for the suspect at this time. I believe such a decision is premature. It is impossible for us to gather the evidence in just a few days to determine whether or not this individual should be held for questioning under the law of war.

The disappointing news for Senator Graham is that his strong disagreement is irrelevant. Several notable Amendments preclude his premise.

Even if we entertained the Senator’s notion, where would it stop? The only mostly dead CISPA bill is slowly being revived with murmurs about how having more access to the brothers’ internet activity could have prevented the bombing. The Boston police commissioner wants more cameras and potentially surveillance drones. And that discussion is happening despite Massachusetts State Police Superintendent Timothy P. Alben admitting in a public statement that increased police presence beginning the day of the bombing wasn’t because they suspected additional safety threats. The militarization of the police force was done for “people to feel comfortable that we’re out there and paying attention.”

If our legislators really wanted us to feel comfortable and safe, perhaps common sense laws would be a good start. In a Majority Report segment, Cliff Schecter pointed out the relevant history on right-wing rhetoric which manifested into public policy following alarming events in our country and the resulting increase in the national security state. None of those fear rationalized reductions in personal freedom, he reminds us, would have stopped either of the brothers from heading directly from the marathon’s aftermath to a gun show and purchasing high-powered weapons for inflicting further damage. The background check bill supported by some 90% of Americans and dismissed by Congress this month would have, though.

Which all leads to a number of questions, deftly articulated by Lee Camp. Will we let the national dialog – already too easily ignored by our elected leaders – bend to the will of the bought and paid for members of Congress and media celebrities? Will we allow the fear that we naturally feel rewrite our individual rights?

Matthew Filipowicz, who lived in New York in 2001 and currently lives in Boston, described on his podcast last week the trepidation he had watching armored vehicles drive through his city and his concern that the haste to catch two young men could lead to the exploitation of the citizens’ cooperation and situation’s quick resolution. Will this event both overshadow other pressing issues and lend itself to the erosion of our rights?

These questions are ours to answer.

We have to demand that legislators yield to our will. That’s a tall order to make on the American psyche after the deflatingly dysfunctional way gun sale reform recently played out. But we cannot be timid. We just watched as veterans who ran the marathon with packs on their backs sprinted toward the injured and applied aid. Only hours ago we saw runners declare their intentions to return, to not allow this act by two troubled individuals destroy their spirit or the event that has brought an entire city into the streets for 116 hundred years. What seemed like all of Boston poured into the streets to cheer law enforcement for their restraint in capturing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev alive.

If you can emerge from the emotional exhaustion of this April too disengaged to stand up and shout for what you want, then this fight was never for you. Whatever the suspects’ motivations, our response should be the same: caution, justice, and carrying on with the work of moving our communities and our country forward. If we sit down now, when would we get back up?

They bombed a marathon, for crying out loud. They tried to blow up a group of people who laugh at fatigue and scoff at aches and pains. We must honor their dedication and spirit by remembering that pushing this country forward is not a jog around the block. It’s not even a 5K. It’s fucking hard – it sounds impossible and pointless to those on the sidelines. But we know better. Anyone who has ever crossed a finish line knows better.

So get some sleep. Hug your best friend. Take a stroll through the park. Get yourself a cookie. Or two cookies. Or a package of cookies. (Thin Mints worked wonders for me.) Then, calmly tune back in and set your internal Google alert to mentions of the Boston Marathon in upcoming legislative battles.

Marathoners were the precisely wrong group to target; many defied their fear and ran past the finish line to the hospital to donate blood. Let’s follow their example of bravery, endurance and resiliency. We cannot let our legislators climb over the rubble and the fear to further alter the landscape of our democracy – it’s already on life support.

Time to lace up, everybody; the starter pistol just went off.

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Categories: Finding My Voice

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2 replies

  1. Great job Katie!

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