I’m not exactly sure why that quote came to mind as I began to endure the bombardment of American media related to the events of April 15, but it did. And I kept coming back to it as I saw the press cover the event and stumble through ‘up to the minute’ updates and ‘this just in’ alerts. The more that I held that quote up, against this backdrop of human suffering the more that the meaning began to materialize and the words, which at first glance seem bitter and cynical, started to transform into something that I’ve observed my entire career.
We are fickle, stupid beings. Gifted with the absolute genetic dominance of an entire planet, what do we do with it? Destroy the planet that created us, murder each other in the interests of invisible beings and glutton ourselves into Alpha primate obesity. I mean think about it. We are devolving as a species. Darwin, sitting on the deck of the Beagle would not have been inspired to write about slow, fat, stupid turtles. Yet here we are, at the gilded pinnacle of his theory and we’re catapulting towards heart disease, diabetes and emphysema. Why? Because we are fickle, stupid beings.
Poor memories yes of course! And where were you on 9-11? What did you do? How long did you feel patriotic? For how long did you get choked up when you saw uniformed soldiers passing through an airport? How long did you strive to be a better person, a better husband, a better citizen? Almost 12 years have gone by now. Enough time for a generation of pre-teens to be raised in an environment that should be electrically charged with patriotism, altruism and global awareness but are they? Did we remember to instill those traits in them? Did the distant memory of rabid hatred for our country fade like the American flag bumper sticker on our SUV?
And what of the support of those that we’ve sworn to protect? How has their memory waned? Fire stations continue to be closed down at a record pace. Brave men and women forced to find new paths, because tax-payers would prefer a new park or an improved parking structure. Where are their memories when it comes time to vote for cost of living salary increases for police and fire? Where are their memories when our brothers fall in the line of duty? 83 American firefighters died last year. Name one of them for me. But I bet you remember that Whitney Houston died in February. What did she ever do for you? At what point did she knowingly commit to laying down her life for yours?
Self destructive. Oh yes, we’ve mastered that.
As I write this, there’s been no determination of who the bombers were or what their motivation was, but in the end will that make any difference? A religious motive, a political motive, a cry for help? Will any of that ease the pain of the parents of the 8-year old boy, whose future flashed away as quickly as the explosion that took it from him? No.
And the sad fact of it all is that memories will be refreshed by this cowardly act of terror. Votes will be swayed by people ‘remembering Boston’ Federal money will flow for training and grants, collections and donations to fire departments and public safety drives will swell. Once a perpetrator is identified, we will focus our righteous indignation upon them and direct our angst against their cause, their religion or their race. And as that anger slowly starts to fade, and the hunger for revenge is sated, the memory will begin to darken, the colors begin to fade and we will wait for it to happen all over again.