National Commentary

‘No More Hurting People. Peace.’

“No more hurting people. Peace.” This was what a hand-drawn sign read, held by a wide-eyed little Martin Richard, age 8, in a photograph taken prior to his being killed by the Boston Marathon bombings on Monday.

The pathos of the appeal and tragic subsequent development is surely palpable. What could be more exemplary of an innocent child’s hopeful spirit than such a sign for peace? Young Martin Richard was roughly the same age as the 20 young victims of the Newtown, Connecticut massacre and very likely his sign was a response to that.

The parallels of the two New England events go deeper. The bombs were identified by authorities as “anti-personnel weapons.” So was the assault weapon used in Newtown. In both cases, weapons of war slaughtered innocent children in the U.S.

How ironic, as well, that while authorities made progress in the Boston case investigation yesterday, the U.S. Senate was facing a vote on a tragically watered-down anti-gun bill, a bill that those in the House are poised to rip asunder if it passes.

Can’t people see the connection between these things, even as the nature of news today is to keep them under separate headlines and compartmentalized apart?

It is safe, I believe, to assume that Martin Richard drew his little sign to call for an end to gun violence and war, and why is that not enough, in itself, to bring the subjects of Boston and Newtown together?

Moreover, there were 20 lethal bombs, presumed similar in nature to the ones that went off in Boston, that killed and maimed people in Iraq in a single day Monday, and one in Somalia the day before that killed 29. And there are no statistics, apparently, for the numbers of innocents killed by unmanned U.S. military drones peppering Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.

The agony associated with the Boston tragedy should serve as a vivid clue to the pain that is being inflicted on innocents throughout the world as a reversion to proxy warfare indiscriminately targets civilian populations. Where do you draw the line between those killed by “anti-personnel weapons” either in large-scale bombings, school yard slaughters, drone attacks or in 3,000 deaths by gun violence on U.S. soil since the Newtown tragedy in December?

The fundamental fallacy in the appeal to the Second Amendment by the gun lobby lies in the notion that some sort of fantastical anarchist resistance may become the only recourse to a tyranny taking over America.

First of all, one could argue that institutions with powers akin to a tyranny are already influencing a majority of lives in America, those with lobbies far more powerful than the gun lobby. Wall Street financiers, banks “too big to fail,” and pharmaceutical and agribusiness interests are running over our culture with almost no serious resistance.

Secondly, no random anarchistic uprising will ever add up to a drop in the bucket against the fire power of these interests as long as they are in control of our government. It’s a Sunday football fantasy, but nothing more.

The disarming that the American public should really fear is the disarming of our minds and active sense of an ability to change our government through revolutions at the ballot box.

The culture wars against the American mind – the assaults of the mind-numbing media, sophomoric potty-mouthed “entertainment,” violent sports, video games and appeals to instant gratification consumerism – have systematically stripped a sense of enfranchisement and personal responsibility from the national psyche.

On some levels, the generosity of the American spirit bursts through, usually in heroic ways in which, on a personal level, people interact with people. But on a large scale, far too many have forfeited their franchise.

“Bread and circuses,” as the Roman emperors provided to their slavish subjects careening toward the collapse of a great empire into a Dark Age, is what too many of us are settling for today.

Adam Zagajewski’s post-9/11 poem, “Try to Praise the Mutilated World,” first published in the New Yorker magazine, spoke to love and promise beyond mass tragedy and clearly remains relevant. But the promise part is entirely up to us.