The Boston Marathon bombing story came garnished with an unusual number of ironies, coincidences, and historical echoes.
Irony. Item number 27 in Christian Landers’s book Stuff White People Like is “Marathons.” Sample from the accompanying text:
To a white person, the absolute pinnacle of fitness is to run a marathon. Not to win, just to run. White people will train for months….They will then set goals like running in the Boston Marathon….
Where’s the irony in that? Well, check out item No. 7 in Landers’s book: “Diversity.”
To be fair, though, Landers adds some qualification to No. 7:
White people love ethnic diversity, but only as it relates to restaurants.
Since neither of the Tsarnaev brothers, nor any of their family members, is a restaurateur, possibly this one doesn’t count. It does sort of tie in with the location of the bombings, though.
Irony. The bombings occurred in zip code 02116. Not knowing the first thing about Boston, I shall have to rely on the stats in city-data.com (which is sometimes out of date). Whaddawe got?
Population is 21,508, of which 21 percent are foreign-born, with China and Hong Kong accounting for 36 percent, so there’s a Chinatown in there. Ice People 79 percent, Sun People 15 percent. Median age 33, low-ish for the state. Average household 1.7 persons, way low. Median household income $69,000, but average AGI $208,000, so there are some rich folks pulling up that average. (The median of the four numbers 2, 4, 6, 1,000,000 is 5; the average is 250,003.) The “household income distribution” is W-shaped: some poor, more rich, lots in the middle.
I’m getting a picture. Old Euro-ethnic neighborhood with gentrification, single hipsters, domestic help, Chinese.
And this is of course Massachusetts. Zip code 02116 is in congressional district 8, which went for Obama 58-41 last November. That’s Barack Obama, the guy whose political career was launched in the living room of terrorist bombers Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. There’s your irony.
Mind you, that 58-41 for the district is a tad less than Massachusetts overall, which went 61-38 for Obama. Why? Probably because of Euro-ethnic Reagan Democrats. I see 13 percent of persons in zip 02116 declare their first ancestry as Irish.
Irony. Irish-Americans, along with a cast of characters that included Colonel Gaddafi, Yasser Arafat, and the KGB, were keen supporters and financiers of the 1966-1999 terror-bombing campaign by the so-called Irish Republican Army (a name insulting to the Irish Republic, which has a perfectly good professional army not involved in terrorism).
The most authoritative account of that campaign lists the IRA and its affiliates as responsible for 636 civilian deaths (Table 20), though it does not tell us how many were caused by bombs in public places. For an on-the-spot account of what such bombings meant, I recommend—though only for those with strong stomachs—Kevin Myers’s Watching the Door, which I reviewed here.
As an Englishman living in the USA during the mid-1970s peak of those killings, I knew from other expats which bars to avoid when I didn’t feel like being insulted or socked on the jaw. There were places where well-nigh any bar was out of bounds: New York’s Woodside, Rockaway, and North Bronx, and anywhere in central Boston. Those were the places where Noraid raised most of their funds. Don’t be spendin’ it on bandages, now!
Coincidence. If I were in charge of the universe, nobody at all would have their legs blown off by terrorist bombs. Unfortunately things are arranged otherwise.
A sense of proportion is never out of place, though. It subtracts nothing from our proper sympathies for the three murdered and dozens maimed in Boston to remember that similar horrors are woven into daily reality.
To jog our memories, a fertilizer plant in Texas blew up just two days after the Boston explosions, killing 14 and sending 160 to the hospital.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 4,609 “fatal occupational injuries” from 2011, with a corresponding number of workers maimed or disfigured. Thirty to forty thousand Americans die in motor vehicle accidents every year, again with untold thousands more crippled, blinded, etc.
Irony. Name of the boat in which Suspect 2, Dzhokar Tsarnaev, was found hiding: Slipaway II.
Coincidence. In the 2010 British comedy movie about terrorism, Four Lions, the main target of the terrorists is the London Marathon.
It’s possible that the Tsarnaev brothers were inspired by Four Lions. If so, they must have watched a version with subtitles. Even I, born and raised an English prole, had trouble understanding the Paki-chav accents. Five minutes in, my wife, a fluent though non-native English speaker, turned to me and asked: “What language is this?”
Well, they were at any rate Caucasian.
“I presume your Loved One was Caucasian.” “No, why do you think that? He was purely English.”
—Evelyn Waugh, The Loved One
Echoes. “George Orwell” said it took him thirty years to recover from having been named Eric. The effect of one’s name on one’s personality development has been much mused on, to no conclusions that I know of.
This comes to mind because the elder Tsarnaev brother was named after Tamerlane, one of the baddest badasses in all of history.
Jason Goodwin tells us that after beating and capturing the Ottoman Sultan Bayezit in 1402:
Tamerlane used his captive magnanimously until Bayezit’s prickly hauteur proved too much for him, and he was placed in a cage, too small for standing upright, and dragged in the wake of Tamerlane’s retinue. His wife Despina was made to serve naked at the victor’s table….Perhaps no-one was sorry when Bayezit eventually dashed out his brains on the bars of his cage.
They don’t make conquerors like that anymore.
Image of Boston courtesy of Shutterstock
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