. . . here on Martha’s Vineyard. We’re a long way from Boston. But the way some of us were glued to our TVs, our computers, and/or our Twittering devices, we might as well have been.
Makes you think, doesn’t it?
Interesting phrase, “locked down.” When I heard it first, it applied to prisoners. When they were “locked down,” they were confined to their cells for security reasons. A lockdown was essentially punitive: y’all are being locked down because one or more of you is a threat.
Then schools got started getting locked down if someone phoned in a bomb threat or a student went nuts or someone was afraid that a student might go nuts. Then the whole city of Boston and the close-in suburbs got locked down.
“Lockdown” has several definitions in the Urban Dictionary. In most of them people with more power assert control over people with less.
One might say that Martha’s Vineyard is on lockdown whenever the boats aren’t running. This is usually due to high winds. The winds don’t cancel the boats, the Steamship Authority does, but we usually blame it on the weather. People with off-island appointments or planes to catch out of Logan are inconvenienced, but Vineyarders don’t freak out when the boats aren’t running. Summer people and recent arrivals, on the other hand, often lose their heads. They don’t realize they’re on an island till they can’t get off it.
In all the ILOVEBOSTON hyperbole someone was quoted as saying “they can’t take away our freedom.” I guffawed. I guess “they” was supposed to be terrorists, maybe the Tsarnaev brothers or maybe terrorists in general, but seriously, honey: you just stayed indoors for 12 hours because the authorities told you to, but “they” can’t take away your freedom?
All “they” have to do to take away your freedom is to tell you to stay indoors because there’s a “terrorist” on the loose. Or to take off your shoes at the airport because maybe someone wants to blow up the plane with a shoe bomb.
Writes John Cassidy in an excellent post to the New Yorker website: “Whenever the word ‘terrorist’ is mentioned in this country, reason tends to go out the window, and many other things go with it, too, such as intellectual consistency, a respect for civil liberties, and a sense of proportion.”
No terrorists were involved in the explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer plant two days after the Boston bombing. More people died and more were injured than in Boston, and as of yesterday some 60 were still unaccounted for.
Or, for that matter, in the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in West Virginia three years ago, or in the fire that ripped through a clothing factory in Dhaka last November, killing at least 117.
No terrorists, but almost certainly corner-cutting, willful negligence, and disregard for worker and neighborhood safety. None of which, it seems, is as scary as a fellow on the loose with bombs possibly strapped to his person.
Most people I know are desperately curious about what motivated the Tsarnaev brothers, if indeed they carried out the bombing they’re accused of. So am I. Why Boston? Why the marathon? The symbolism of the 9/11 targets wasn’t hard to grasp. The symbolism of 4/15 is more elusive.
But I’m also curious about what motivates the corner-cutters, and the guys who played games with bundled mortgages, and all the other (relatively) powerful people whose small acts of callousness and negligence add up to big catastrophe for other people they never even see.