Led by our various media, the American public has a strange and puzzling relationship with grief.  in recent months our embassy in Benghazi suffered attack, with 4 Amerians killed.  Tucson, Aurora, Newtown all gave us reason to grieve the needless deaths of innocent adults and children, all just doing their jobs, or doing what leisure activity they had every right to do.  The Boston Marathon ended in crazy, senseless violence, killing three outright, maiming so many more, and then later adding another death and another serious injury to the toll.  A fertilizer factory in Texas, holding many times more ammonium nitrate than was legal, blew up, and 14 are dead, homes destroyed, nearby property laid waste.  A factory in Bangladesh, producing clothing for American retail brands, collapsed.  The toll so far, tops 300 dead, many more trapped and/or injured.

Led by those media, we’ve been urged to focus on the “otherness” of killers.  Benghazi was a political uprising, for which we should have been prepared, and were not.  Yes… but so was the Cole.  So, for that matter, was Pearl Harbour.  The Boston Bombers were Chechen born, children of Russian political immigres given sanctuary in America.  Public sentiment would have us believe that somehow a 15 yr. old and and 8 yr. old should have been singled out as politically dangerous, and denied asylum with their parents.  They too are “the other”.

Tucson, Aurora, Newtown.  Those killers had mental problems.  Those killers were somehow enabled by their families, somehow allowed to have guns, but tighter controls on gun buying would not have stopped them.  Tighter controlls on the number of rounds they could fire without reloading – oh, heck, it wouldn’t have saved very many lives!  And because they had mental health issues, they too are “other”.  They are not like us.  They are not like the Americans we meet at school, at church, in the workplace.  We do not work for them, nor they for us.  They are “other”.

But then comes Texas.  It’s easy enough to say that OSHA was at fault for not inspecting that plant for 18 years.  Yes, 18 years.  That is three administrations, of both parties.  It is shameful, but not so shameful as the simple fact that the owners and managers of that plant knew what OSHA requires, and knew they were not in compliance.  Only blocks from an elementary school, they were not in compliance, and did nothing to change that.  They knew there was danger.  Ten of the dead were volunteer fire fighters who responded to the blast.  Volunteer, because that’s the way Texas builds their booming economy.  Volunteers who probably could have done with more training, more protective equipment, but being brave, loyal, believing in their charge to protect, they ran into the fire anyway.  May they rest in peace.  They were not “other”.

And then comes Bangladesh.  Not about us?  Oh, yes, it is.  That particular factory made clothing ONLY  for American brands.  It was not owned by them, but they sanctioned the practices the owners mandated, and accepted the lack of inspection, of meaningful building codes.  That building had cracks, had flaws, had fissures big enough to alarm anyone… but workers were lured back, and they died.  Workers, simple people like you and me.  Parents, husbands, wives, siblings… not white, not American, but surely not “other”.

Political unrest abroad gets press.  Mentally ill killers get press.  They both also get excuses, and the focus goes on 20/20 hindsight.  American money, American greed kills many more, and no blame is assigned, except to government agencies who “should have seen this coming”.  I’m pointing out American greed, American investment here.  To go further afield in the same realm, how about BP in the Gulf?  They knew the dispersants were unsafe, and used them anyway.  How many deaths, how many illnesses?

There are no “others”.  If we are all the children of God, then we are also the children of Allah, of Krishna, of Jahweh, of Buddha, and to quote the late Arthur Miller, “attention must be paid!”    I lived most of my adult life near Boston, and yes, I am partisan, yes I am angry, yes, I wear that Red Sox shirt proudly… but if I had a shirt for West, Texas, or for Bangladesh, I’d wear that too, because “All God’s Creatures Gotta Place in the Choir” and they all deserved to live long enough to sing.

Advertisements