…the Bleacherman has entered the stadium…
The Boston Marathon bombing tore through our collective soul on April 15, 2013.
Twenty-one days have passed since that day of tragedy.
The time for anger is now over. The time to be afraid has ended. The time to seek retribution and revenge has passed. The time for introspection and reflection has begun.
And that is exactly what I have started. I have begun the process of thinking about what just happened, why it happened and how we as a nation responded to the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing.
With a good cigar and a snifter filled with cognac in hand, I leaned back in my chair and quickly and painfully realized that this country’s often stated belief that we are a Nation adorned in the values and ethics of human rights is at best, an act of self-serving communal delusion. When it comes to the principles and morals articulated in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights, our overall attitude reflects a heavy influence of both hypocrisy and schizophrenia.
On one day we demand the protections afforded by the Constitution’s Second Amendment; yet on the following day, we demand the almost total disregard of the same Constitution’s protections articulated in the Fifth and Sixth Amendment (Miranda ruling.)
This has to stop. Protections afforded by the Constitution’s Bill of Rights must not be subject to the prevailing winds of a political agenda which changes week to week. One cannot honor one amendment while holding another in contempt. If we do so, then all that we say we are is a lie. We are lying to ourselves and we are lying to those who admire our constitutional form of government.
Too often than not, political opportunists force us into a rabbit hole that tries to circumvent the vaulted principles that we say are the core of our soul. When it serves us politically, we as a Nation are quick to try to find an end run around Constitutional protections and guarantees.
Immediately following the capture of one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, Fox News, never an organization that hesitates to pound on the drums of hate , anti-Islamic rhetoric and the call for war, held true to its corrupted soul and began belching one accusatory epitaph after another. They were quick and relentless in advocating for a complete denial of constitutional rights for the suspect in custody. They called for, among the usual host of their home-grown insanities, denying the accused his Miranda Rights, the use of waterboarding and in the name of complicity and conspiracy advocated the bombing of both Iran or Chechnya or any country not liked by Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes.
But it didn’t end there. In the Fox New World, hate is infectious and spreads everywhere like an out of control virus. Nothing was sacred, nothing innocent enough to escape the Vomits of Wrath disgorged by Fox News commentators and pundits. Some wanted to deny all students of the Islamic religion access to US colleges. Some rallied to wiretap all mosques. Ann Coulter, supported by her boy toy Sean Hannity, wanted to jail women who choose to wear a Hijab on an American street. What’s next? Jailing Jewish men for wearing those “funny hats” on the Sabbath? Or should we jail the Timothy McVays of the world for driving pickup trucks and vans?
What drives these people? Paranoia? Xenophobic hysteria? Religious hatred? Ratings?
I can’t speak for the motivations of others but there was a time long ago when my soul marched to the beat of a similar revenge, narrow-minded, self-serving drumbeat. I vocally and vociferously echoed similar hate-filled emotions. I believed that there were bad guys out there who threatened my well-being and my way of life and if caught, deserved neither constitutional protection nor legal compassion.
My outrage manifested into a malignancy in 1977. The place was the township of Skokie, a small community located just north of the city of Chicago. At that time, Skokie was the home to one out of every six Jewish survivor of the German holocaust. Many had immigrated to the United States expecting to live in peace and free from religious persecution.
And then, once again, came the Nazis. This time it was the American Nazi party that claimed a First Amendment right to bring their vile hatred and anti-Semitism to the streets of Skokie. They believed that they had the right to confront those that had already suffered more than their share of pain and misery.
I was horrified by their gall and sickened by their intent. And I was not alone in my outrage and disgust. In my mind, this had nothing to do with First Amendment rights. This was the equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded theater. The Nazis’ desires represented an act of pure malice. They wanted to hurt and offend.
I was outraged and demanded that the City deny the Nazis the needed authorizations to hold their march. My anger was intensified by the fact that the American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU) took up the Nazi cause and defended their right to march and vomit their malignant vile where ever they wanted to.
“Fuck the Constitution!” I yelled.
I was in tears. I was shaking with rage. I was ashamed. How could this happen again? How could this be? How can America be so tolerant? Do we not remember what these people represent? Do we not still bear the scars of the Nazi concentration camps? Is freedom this tolerant? Do we not remember Kristallnacht? Could such tolerance lead to a resurgence of the American Nazi Party and the German Bund? Will I have to wear an armband again identifying me as a Jew?
Ultimately the ACLU and the Nazis won their right to march but when all the shouting ended there was no march. Some blamed internal conflicts within the American Nazi party while others pointed to the threat of violence by groups opposed to what the Nazis represented.
Many years later, when I was able to distance my mind from my emotions was I able to fully understand that the freedom of speech and other constitutionally guaranteed rights must be defended even when the beneficiaries of that defense are far from admirable individuals. We as a Nation must never replace justice with the impulse for revenge. Our Bill of Rights must be universally applied and must never be influenced by politics or current events.
Never has this been more important than today when the genesis of intellectual lynch mobs seem to be stirring over the fate of the surviving member of the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing. The ugly hand of passion again blinds us and is sending us down a path that in the future we will surely come to regret.
Twenty-one days have passed since the flood of emotions overwhelmed our Nation. We shall never forget what happened in Boston nor will we. But in this time of reflection and introspection, we must never lose sight of who and what we are as a Nation. Democracy must always be protected. Once we start playing word games with the Constitution and find cracks in the wall of protections afforded s by our Bill of Rights, then and only then can the terrorists claim victory.
…the Bleacherman has left the stadium…