The Boston Marathon, begun in 1897 with 18 contestants, is the world’s oldest annual marathon and likely the most prestigious. These days about 500,000 people come to watch between 20,000 and 35,000 contestants each year. The race starts at noon on the third Monday of April, which is Patriots’ Day.
Patriots’ Day is an obscure Massachusetts holiday. No one else knows about it or cares much (Maine celebrates it too as they used to be part of Massachusetts, and a few people in Wisconsin and Florida take a day off I think), and it is mainly an excuse to get hammered (source). Officially, it celebrates the the battles of Lexington and Concord, which happened 238 years ago. In these battles 49 Americans and 73 British were killed. It was the first (minor skirmish really) of the American Revolutionary War. It is, essentially, a local holiday and unknown.
So why the hell was the Boston Marathon targeted? It’s a marathon! This is people at their best. People are running, disciplining themselves, losing weight, building relationships, etc. Moreover, runners start between 10am and 10:40am, and the bombs went off at 3pm. Everyone who is a super good runner would be done by then. If you started at 10:30am and ran 9 minute miles, you would finish around 2:25PM. The top runners are starting to finish at 12:15. These people are the fast ones who are kicking ass and taking names—the professionals some might say. So these bombs targeted the slower ones, the 10,000 or so who did not cross, I read in one report, were dads and moms and their families who showed up to cheer them on. They never got to finish. This runner was knocked down yards away from the finish line, and he is 78 years old. Kudos. I wish I am in that great of shape when I am 78. My apologies for running 26.19 miles and not being able to finish.
The bombs, it seems, were made to hurt people; they were packed with nails and shrapnel to do maximal damage to soft tissue. CNN says 176 people were injured, and so far 3 are dead, about a dozen or so remain critical. Among those killed was 8-year old Martin Richard, who came to cheer on his Dad at the finish line who had yet to cross. His mother and sister are seriously injured. Pray for them.
So, did I miss something? Is jogging ruining the world? Are families cheering on non-professionals crossing the finish-line a threat to anyone? Is Patriots’ Day a symbol of American greed and exploitation? Is it a recognizable symbol? No.
9/11 was different. Obviously it had more death and destruction, but at least the target made some tenous degree of sense. I do not want to overstate here (and of course am not endorsing it by any means), but it seems that anyone who knows anything about how multi-national corporations function around the world can understand some anger towards the capitalist system and the symbols of that system, such as the twin towers. Also, people who worked in these towers might be presumably (from the terrorists’ perspective) part of the system. Finally, targeting the World Trade Center did not imply targeting children explicitly.
The Boston Marathon attack, however, is an attack on baseball, hotdogs, and apple pie. It is an attack on American-ness, or even worse, an attack on Americans living out healthy lifestyles. Supportive families, including children, were targeted. This, much more than 9/11, gives some degree of credence to the bizarre phrase, “they hate us for our freedom.”
So I do not know what to make of this. I am distraught, angry, and if this is international terrorism, then it seems like an idiotic target.
Obviously, I know nothing. I do know, however, that this is exactly the wrong way to fight America. Historically, Americans will leave you alone if you leave them to baseball, hotdogs, and apple pie. We are isolationists at heart. Even if we currently have a far flung system of military bases, we do not like it, came to it reluctantly, and we will tire of it if you stop bothering us (or invading Poland).
But this is not the way to make us tire. This unites us and gives us energy. My prediction: about 200 million Americans will be joining Massachusetts in celebrating Patriots’ Day next year on Monday April 21, 2014.
Mark your calendars. I’m ordering kegs of Sam Adams Boston Lager now. Go Paul Revere! Go America! U-S-A!