Mass Silliness

In the midst of all the back-slapping and poignant hypocrisy (coordinated stump-speeches as televised eulogies are pretty tasteless, culminating in the Commander-in-Chief, the only Nobel Peace Prize winner with a kill-list, pleading we “Stop hurting each other” and “Peace”), the mayor of Boston, Tommy Menino, opened this morning’s edition of “This Week” with continued trumped-up stumping for what would be an entire episode covering the Boston Marathon bombing.

After incompetence on the part of the BPD in the accidental killing of a college student in the aftermath of the Red Sox winning the 2004 ALCS, the BPD’s Commissioner at the time stated how the police department “accepts full responsibility” for the death of the student, Victoria Snelgrove, “but” immediately thereafter went on to condemn the actions of some “punks” as deserving partial blame.

First of all, there ought to be no “but” after accepting full responsibility.  Also, let it be clear that in the immediate media-aftermath of that tragic incident, the originally worded “punks” started lazily getting lumped together with “fans” throughout the rest of the statement.  I remember how that sparked my ire.  Baseball is a game that can bring out one’s inner child (sometimes in not so good ways, particularly between Sox and Yankees’ fans), and fans of any sport should never be confused with actual vandals who would seek to seize upon a large crowd to commit individual, destructive acts.  Cheering in the streets, or even observing a celebration as Victoria was doing safely and legally atop a one-story parking lot across from Fenway’s left-field wall, is not destructive.  The vandals, or “punks”, are the ones who deserve the partial blame; the inference of accessories to her death.

I was there that night, standing only several feet away from when her unconscious body was discovered on the street.  Moments earlier, one of the riot-officers walking up my side of Landsdowne Street was aiming his pellet-gun up at the Monster, just as another on the other side of the street must have been doing when he fired up — unlike as he was required to, into the ground, in order for the pellets to explode and release their gas on impact.  These officers deserve, and have publically acknowledged the bulk of, the blame for her death.

I am not saying mayhem was not happening elsewhere in order to prompt a reaction from the police, there was just none going on from my vantage point.  Another fan passed right in front of me with his nose bloodied and broken by a mounted police-officer, according to his crying sister in his defense.  One officer, on foot, had a very geared up expression on his face.  Pepper-spray was fuming up the back of the Monster where strangers were helping others trying to safely climb down from the girders.  Then the aforementioned student standing along the edge of that parking-tier somehow had one of those pellets embed itself into her eye-socket, wield its chemicals to her brain where she then fell unconscious onto the sidewalk, where a fellow celebrator screamed in horror.  I did not want to leave nearby the scene until I saw some movement from her, which I did see.  It was not until the following morning did I learn she had died.

Considering the historical fashion of how the Red Sox had won the league championship that night, the historic rival whom they had beaten with only the loss of one year prior as the latest gut-wrenching chapter in that rivalry, the very bitter to very sweet celebration that ensued immediately onto the streets that night should not have only been expected by authorities as very cathartic, but more like a cosmic event.  And given how there was a trend at the time of such celebrations turning out of control in college campuses and towns across the country, in the aftermath of their area’s teams winning championships, in retrospect, I was surprised the BPD appeared so unprepared for this outpouring.

But it was the “but” that still lingered.  For the majority now generally being lauded for their stoic ‘heroism’ in the aftermath of the Marathon-bombing were then labelled partially responsible for this young woman being killed.  Such education in existentialism is not-so-subtly, persistently devolving, as that partial blame slowly culminated to full when the Commissioner and some representatives of the mayor’s office reportedly went as far as meeting with the parents of the deceased young woman a couple of days after the initial condemnation and managed to convince them to publically blame the “fans” for their daughter’s death (according to a banner headline in the Boston Herald which read, “Family Blames Fans”).

I am white, Irish, and lived in Boston for three months in the summer of 1995.  I am perhaps an odd blend of introvert and gregarious.  I intended to try and make a living there, seeing how the city is pretty much the literary capital of the country and I like to write, and about ninety percent of my family happen to be from towns around the south of Boston.  My parents and older siblings are originally from Brockton.  Maybe it was because it was a hot summer that year, as it is a big city of roughly three million residents, or perhaps it had something to do with my just having spent two years living out in a smaller and less crowded city in the Midwest, but a big reason I decided to last only a few months there was from having spent a lot of time walking around Boston-proper on days off from work and not one single passer-by returned a friendly smile.  The only friend I did manage to make was my roommate through a mutual friend, a very nice person from Ohio, whose previous roommate had actually moved out on her only after a short time for the very same reason as myself. 

So I don’t think “tough” is the word I would use to generally describe Bostonians.  Neurotic, distrusting, over-caffeinated, perhaps as a result of a Mr. Donut or Dunkin Donuts on practically every street-corner.  The dose of xenophobia that the “Euro-trash” get practically extends to anyone not from Boston.  Very old-school in terms of social politics.  (Little do people know that over a hundred years ago, the Irish were actually discriminated against by the Germans in Boston.)  I once saw a native Bostonian actually get out of his car in not-so mid-afternoon traffic on Boylston and confront the driver in front of him, yelling, “Go back to your fucking country!”

Cities right now in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, sub-Saharan Africa have to deal with the threat of bombing and random terror attacks on a daily basis.  These are cities well-acquainted with actual, unvarnished fear.  I have trouble understanding these conflicting messages of how Boston can on the one hand be referred to as “tough” yet also “a city paralyzed by fear”.  In very recent, post-9/11 America, it is near-impossible for me to believe the majority living in a city where those planes happened to take off could carry on unsusceptible to the possibility of future terrorism.  Old school politics press on.

If there is anything we the public have learned from this latest terror-incident, it is that America has a continued inclination to oversell.  Boston was a city largely paralyzed by inconvenience from being locked-down for a day, and overcrowded by multi-media tourists.  (How do police bypass peeking inside a resident’s big boat parked in his backyard, very near the scene from where the younger Tsarnaev had fled, bloodied?)  I wish we would learn to not perpetuate any possible, future tragic incident in this country with the disservice of tragically shallow perspective.

Heroes Shouldn’t Exist

The new BBC series “Sherlock” is Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson adapted to the post-9/11, Information Age.

The eponymous character’s eccentric work-ethic, adventurous curiosity, and supersonic observational skills remain illuminated in contrast to the humanism of his chief associate and Afghan war veteran, Dr. John Watson (although not quite so much and in comedic contrast to his older brother, sibling rival, Mycroft).  It is a thrill to see Sherlock Holmes put a smartphone (text included, scrolled along the television-screen) to good use, which has a bit of John Henry-type appeal – to go with a less bulky, flip-open, hand-held magnifier – run parallel with the show’s use of visual editing coinciding with his deductions, as well as the mix of Victorian-against-21st century architecture of London.

But what I most enjoy watching – and re-watching – is the dynamic, true friendship between Holmes and Watson.

Writing for this show must be a very complicated undertaking, hence the only three, 90-minute episodes, per season.  The genius of the show for me plays up the classic superhero-versus-super-villain, in a league-of-their-own battle of wits extremely well.  For the acting and writing of the seemingly incredible mindsets of the two adversaries, Holmes and James Moriarty, dueling it out in the modern maze of our collective unconscious, are made to feel tangible.

Take the following clip from a scene halfway through the season one finale, “The Great Game”…  Holmes and Watson had just fought the clock in order to solve a case dictated to them over the phone through yet another innocently connected hostage, by a so-called ‘fan’ of Sherlock’s (later, to no real surprise, confirmed to be Moriarty).  Although they solved the case, they are sitting in their living room having just watched footage of the hostage’s unforeseeable mistake in judgment: she had begun to reveal an ever-so-slight part of Moriarty’s identity, resulting in her and a large section of her apartment-building being ripped apart, killing 12, in total.  After shutting off the television news in disgust (something we should all do more often, in general) and deliberating over where the bomber might be with his latest case, Dr. Watson asks why he might be playing these ‘games’ with them in the first place.  Holmes then coolly replies in his suddenly detached way, believing it maybe because he is bored – or, as he puts it “distracted”.  This finally brings things to a head for the good doctor (not before muttering under his breath, “You two would be perfect together”)…

What an audacious thing to say from a self-proclaimed “consulting detective”, no less, to someone who is a doctor, war-veteran, and lives in reality at least as we know it.  But he gets no argument in return.  This to me would become the signature line/defining moment of the series.

Anyone has the capacity to be selfless.  S/He would, at best, humbly, mortally acknowledge any a special action.  Anyone else would more or less be considered an asshole.  Nor would anyone wish to be portrayed as some sort of valiant disconnect for any a villainous entity to seek to manipulate.  Thus, the term ‘hero’, in this sense, becomes completely relative and obsolete.

Make a difference, stay true to a calling, but not without some basis of understanding.  It is very fortunate many of us do not live where violence occurs in any of its forms, to various degrees, on a daily basis, but what of the many persistently made all too aware of such surroundings?  Instead of obliging to more shallow and rehashed manifestations of scapegoated fears, never intending to separate the ‘super’ amongst us to begin with, why not recognize our better capacities now?  It is enough for me to try and stave off cynicism, for the time being.