On March 17, 1776 the British departed from Boston for Halifax, Nova Scotia, and American forces entered the city. Having been taken after an eleven-month siege, Boston remained in American hands for the remainder of the war. This is a brief excerpt from the website http://www.militaryhistory/about.com/ about the siege of Boston during the American revolution and fight for independence from the British, many years ago.
Last week it seemed like another major military intervention laid the town under a siege, awaiting a resolution. After a week of extreme emotional responses to a disaster in terms of security that happened at the public event of the marathon race in Boston, I am sure everybody has an opinion. I need to say first that I am sorry for all of the relatives of the three deaths and the individuals that got killed, maimed for life, or injured. I am sorry as well for the USA citizens and the nation for being unable to put things in perspective and am concerned for their future.
I personally am weary in the extreme about mass hysteria, and always have been, a reason that I am reluctant to join groups. My basis for this fear is that a ‘group think’ situation might develop that does not allow for dissent. That having a different opinion (mine) would mean being ostracised and possibly even being hurt in some ways.
Speaking up is part of my upbringing in post war Netherlands, where the mass murder of millions of fellow citizens took place exterminated for reasons of race, or disability, or being dark colored foreigners, such as the Roma, without any significant opposition from the majority of citizens. Citizens remained quiet during the war years for fear of being drawn in and themselves be imprisoned, or shot by the occupying German army, or its Dutch collaborators.
Whether rational, or not, I fear knee jerk mass emotional responses, because I feel that most people are pretty much cowards, trying to save themselves and will be hiding within the crowd of public opinion. Mass responses can be very destructive and irrational, such as lynching and stoning that is still going on in the world.
Last year, Americans were dancing in the streets in front of the US White House, after it became known that a crew of paratroopers, or whatever the technical term might be, had illegally entered the air space of an autonomous nation without that nation’s knowledge (not even one secret service staff person knew). The goal was to invade a private home in Pakistan and kill Osama Bin Laden. The commandos indeed killed a few family members and abducted the man who had put himself in the role of the leader of a terrorist organization, Al Qaeda, and then they threw him out of a helicopter into the ocean.
I was taken aback by this unrestrained response of the American public to the news. I wondered whether nobody had any thoughts about how unethical this action had been. It violated all rules of war and of international diplomacy. The dance and jubilation of the people in the street looked like a response of victory, similar to a national team winning the soccer world cup, a comparison that I have seen and can understand, with one difference: no lives were lost, no killings took place at a soccer victory.
Bin Laden could not be brought to justice. No evidence was presented in a court of law, or even in a court-martial (if you consider the terrorist acts to be acts of war), or even before an international court of justice, or tribunal.
No proof was tested in a court of law, no defence lawyer was defending the accused or explaining the acts that supposedly linked Bin Laden directly to the events that changed the US self image forever: the high jacking of planes and the subsequent thousands of deaths resulting from the planes crashing into the Twin Tower buildings.
No views were shown on TV of Osama Bin Laden being tried and put to death, what undoubtedly the verdict from a trial would have been. I thought a video taped speech only is never enough evidence for the claims to be a leader and no evidence of being actually directly connected to an act of terrorism. That’s what makes justice so difficult in these cases of terrorist acts. Does that justify breaking one’s own rules of justice and throw a suspect in the ocean, untried? What about freedom of expression? Was the man not allowed to say what he wanted?
Another point: aren’t the actual perpetrators (if can be proven guilty) not responsible for their own actions, regardless of what a leader tell them to do? Wasn’t that the excuse of every German Nazi: we were just following orders?
The response of public mass emotions last week after the recent Boston Marathon was similarly out of range of rationality, in my view. It seemed more like indicators of a traumatic response to a previous incident after a trigger.
National celebration began when the lone, injured young man was hunted down in a spectacular military-style operation worthy of capturing an Al Capone-like gang. He was caught, like a hunted down, injured fox, trapped in a hole. His brother was already killed. An army against two dangerous criminals after a siege.
They are suspected to be the perpetrators of the bombs placed and detonated at the finish line that killed three and injured many at the Boston marathon. I hope that at least one of the accused can stand trial and given his life story, for us all to be educated how this came about.
Since the bombs went off and caused the public mayhem, talks on TV went on for every minute of the day, because nobody claimed responsibility and little was known about the reasons for it.
It seemed to me as if the nation was re-traumatized and their fears reactivated, to an irrational and very high level.
These types of attacks were, and still are, almost routinely taking place in other nations where there is political and/or religious strive, to name a few: Afghanistan, Palestine, Israel, India, Somalia, Syria, Chechnya, and so on. Those places are far away from the US and at a safe distance, or so you might think. European courts and the UN security council has dealt with atrocities for decades, trying to solve the political aspects and improve global cooperation to stop the worst perpetrators. It seems that the public in the US was (and maybe still is) not very aware of what goes on globally, until the 9-11 attacks on the Twin Towers centre.
So far, the USA government has been taking the prerogative to act with impunity as they see fit, like as a rogue state itself without UN backing for its military actions, punishing people that are perceived to have done the USA an injustice, with the population behind it; few objections are heard among politicians, for fear of being called unamerican.
Catching a suspect of such a public assault as the bombings last week was cheered on and celebrated publicly. One would have to wonder if this was overkill, in light of the as of yet unproven facts. After the arrest, if one can call it that, the youngest of the two young citizens that are alleged perpetrators was barely alive, critically wounded.
I suspect that these two young men were probably trying to do their own thing to get to heaven, alienated from their society and their peer group, in search of meaning in their lives, like so many young men who are the first or second generation offspring of newcomers to the nation.
How can this nation get their own responses under control, back to more normal levels? What is the self reflection about their culture and life styles, if there even is any reflection? What could lead to young people that grow up in their midst to become so alienated? How are newcomers treated? Is there much discrimination? These are the questions that should be asked next and answers that are not glib or superficial be sought out.
This is not the first incident of domestic unrest born out of religious zealotry or perceived victimization by individuals in acts against the state or ruling class. The massacre at Waco, Texas under leadership of David Koresh of the religious sect Branch Divinians in 1993 left 54 adults and 28 children dead after the troops were done and the ensuing fire was out. Timothy McVeigh, a veteran in the US Persian war sought revenge on the government in April 1995 for their action against Koresh’ group and was the sole perpetrator of the Oklahoma City bombing, with 168 deaths and 800 injured.
In Canada, Sikh terrorists were responsible for the downing of a plane with all occupants dead in the ocean off Lockebie, to attract attention for the fight for an independent Sikh nation in India, a very familiar history of imported political strive that came to our doorstep. Our nation’s response was that, although the culprits were known, they were let go, as the justice system could not get a conviction; the proof was not there and the case took too long to go to trial.
We did not send a commando to India, where some of the accused took refuge, to kill the alleged offenders. That would be wrong and probably cause a tremendous political rift with that autonomous nation.
Since then, the Canadian police, the secret service and the successive governments have learned their lesson: improved surveillance of political and religious zealots takes place and action if needed with arrests. Social engineering also helped, such as assistance to newcomers to establish, to adjust their expectations to the Canadian reality and requirements of our culture, and help them settling in, so important, because we desperately need newcomers to keep our sparsely populated nation functioning.
International strive has also entered the US, not surprisingly, as the world is getting very small, relatively speaking. As well, US soldiers have been involved with conflicts all over the world. I say, welcome to the reality of being global citizens. We all will have to come to the point that we have to take our blinkers off and see the world and our political allies as they are. For example, the US government and Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Osama Bin Laden, have a strong connection that cost the US dearly. We have to take responsibility for our own actions and judge others with the same measuring stick as we judge ourselves with, as nations, as well as private citizens. We can do that by casting our votes intelligently for our governments and for the leaders and by demanding that our governments act ethically as well, nationally and internationally.
As an example of the old thinking in the US as I observed it, I am going to give a scenario.
What would people think if let’s say, just for the sake or argument, a Canadian secret mission went up to Alaska and kidnapped what’s her name, the woman Tina Fey did a better impersonation of than the woman herself, not to kill her, but to bring her before a tribunal. Or when she was vacationing in the Bahamas and we took her from there.
We Canadians would like to see Sarah Palin submit her evidence for having her racist and fear mongering ideas that she has been spouting, putting our nation at risk, making it more unsafe for our citizens, simply by the fact of living next door to us. We want to see her in a court of law defending herself for charges of hate mongering. We think she is a dangerous leader who perpetuates hate and instigates people to act against the government and against those minorities and non-Caucasians, wanting to take away their rights as citizens, or deny them the right to settle after years of living and working in the US. Maybe, she and her supporters might cause terrorist attacks. We don’t really know, do we?
The Canadian government could justify this action, in an attempt to prevent the deaths and the oppressive life people of non-Caucasian background in the future, if her government would get into power. We cannot trust our USA neighbours to take care of preventing that.
We want to protect our life style of tolerance and unarmed citizens, for registered gun possession for hunters only, of equality for all and equal access to the benefits of our country including health care, abortion and protection under the law, be they new immigrants or not. Canada does not let new residents wait for years: after 3 years of living responsibly one is eligible to apply for citizenship.
In analogy with US interventions abroad, Canadian commandos kidnapping people with extremist ideas on our borders, such as the Alaska ex-senator, would not be that far-fetched, considering the woman was/is popular and was a VP candidate at some point, and had a real chance of becoming a president’s right hand woman. If she would come into power, would that not be the will of the population? We will say to that: Never mind, we know better than the Americans and we could justify taking her out and imprison her, preventative, because we can see what her reign will lead to. Their own government is too weak to prevent her rising to power. We do it for their own good! Too many Americans still adore her and hold the same extremist views.
Now I am going a step further with this scenario.
Combining the threat of reactionary and racist politics that seems very prevalent in the US, the statistics on gun ownership are even more threatening: the fact that 330 million guns are dispersed throughout that country, next door to us: it scares the hell out of us.
And on top of that, many, if not most of those gun owners, are unchecked, might even carry concealed weapons, and own more than one gun, including possibly automatic weapons and military style weapons.
Those guns might be in the hands of crooks and extremists, and racists, and mentally unstable people. Many of the guns are being smuggled to our country together with drugs to be exchanged for our BC pot.
Don’t you think we Canadians should be fearful of our American neighbours?
And yet, we do not have that fear and we do still kindly look upon the American visitors coming to our country. Aren’t we simple and naive?
This simple Canadian would like to call the events at the Boston marathon a domestic problem. After Americans individually and communally have settled down I think they should deal with their past traumas as soon as possible, as a nation and as individuals, before it all escalates from a domestic problem to terrorist hysteria again.
For the Obama administration I have some suggestions as well: I hope that they can clean up the domestic mess. The leaders need to stop catering to the national need for adrenaline through trumped up military actions and political rhetoric on how they are going to root out attacks on their culture. Their political alliances should be questioned and maybe changed, internationally. Some introspection is warranted; changes in their culture would not be a bad idea, in my opinion….
I would love to hear your reactions and ideas. All comments welcome. I would love it if you would rate this article at the top.