|July 20, 2005||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Terror, Here and Elsewhere
Sometimes the bare, bold content of the daily media displays a powerful — and chilling — reflection of our societal values. Really, I guess, it does that every day — but now and then it is obvious enough to be shocking. Tonight was one such.
The terrorist attacks in London have been the focus of intense media attention this past week. There’s no surprise in that. Four separate attacks, possibly by suicide bombers, killed at least fifty people during the London Tube’s rush hour.
A senseless, bad thing. And I have to admit, on a personal note, that having ridden the London Underground a few times, and having been a devoted fan of the New York City subway, that I found terrorism in the underground more terrifying, somehow, than planes being flown into skyscrapers. Millions upon millions of people ride the subways every day. Few actually like it, (though I was one: I enjoyed riding in the front car and checking out the “magnificent desolation” of the tunnels, and the uncanny steel-girdered fragility of the Manhattan Bridge) but everybody shares the experience, and they make of it something commual, and profoundly life-affirming. A couple of quick “tube” anecdotes: my nephew, who is now a baseball-loving 11-year-old in Brooklyn, learned his letters and numbers from the trains, at the age of 2, on his daily commute with his mom to work and daycare. His mom has a story of when she was pregnant with him. One hot afternoon, about 7 months on, she was denied a seat on the subway by a 40-something woman who was avidly reading her Bible. My cousin, a big-boned gal, former nationally-ranked wrestler, is not inclined to take such treatment. She proceeded to wedge herself into the non-space beside this woman, and commented, “That’s a good book. Too bad you’re not learning anything from it.”
The subway is, in fact, a veritable bastion of civilization. (Even in its worst decline, in New York in the late 70s, it was the canvas for the liberating pop-art form of graffitti.) It is the only way humanity has yet devised for moving that many people, in that short a time, in that dense a community. The need to do that arose in industrial society long before the automobile had mass-market potential; New York’s and London’s subways preceded the widespread use of automobiles by at least two decades — which has a lot to do with why they are still in use today (but it’s a good thing they are).
In a lot of ways, it makes sense that terrorists who wish to deal pain to Western civilization would target the Tube. After all it is chock-full of people going to work. Western work. Financial work. Work in the belly of the commercial, secularist beast, promoting hedonistic capitalistic globalized commerce. People depend on the Tube to get to work. If one wanted these people to be forced to question the bedrock assumptions of their community — what better place to put a bomb?
And because of all that, a subway attack in the United States is likely. Don’t ya think? But I, for one, won’t stop riding it — at least when I get a chance, on my visits to New York! (Last time I was in town it was the day of the Puerto Rican parade — a not-to-be-missed day for underground people-watching!)
But I digress, don’t I? — and so does the media.
Story number five on Yahoo!’s list of top stories today was: “Car Bombs and Explosions Kill 30 in Iraq”.
It’s old news. Suicide-bombing terrorists have been killing dozens of people in Iraq a couple times a week FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS. The civilian death toll in Iraq since the beginning of the US occupation is easily fifteen times the 1,700 or so US military personnel who have died there. Islamist terrorism in Iraq is rampant, on the increase, undeterred by the US occupation and, in fact, tremendously increased because of the US occupation. So much so, in fact, that it has become passé on the evening news.
Yahoo! customarily places links, in its left-hand column, to other standard parts of the daily-news website, such as “Full Coverage”. As I read the story on the 30+ people killed in Iraq today, the first item in the left-hand column, under “Full Coverage”, displaying an image of the British flag, read; “London Bombings: The latest news, photos, video, blogs, and more.”
If we saw “Full Coverage, with the latest news, photos, video, blogs, and more” on every terrorist bombing in Iraq, would be as willing to spend nearly two billion dollars per week occupying that country? It’s ironic, isn’t it? The United States military struggles to meet its recruitment goals, while the insurgency in Iraq (in its “death throes”, according to Dick Cheney) comes up with a seemingly endless supply of suicide bombers. Iraq may not yet have built a world-class subway system, but their civilization has deep roots, and its wanton destruction in the name of Western geopolitics has everything to do with the recent attacks on the London tube, where fifty people, yes! 50 people, lost their lives this past week — about the average week’s total in Iraq.
Every car in the New York City subway these days has a poster reminding straphangers to be aware of unattended, suspicious-looking bags or packages, and to tell someone about them! It’s a timely and important reminder — but I think it would be stronger and more meaningful warning if it were placed in context: beside a poster of an Iraqi family blown to bits by a terrorist bomb. We need to be vigilant in more ways than one.
Lindy Davies is the Program Director of the Henry George Institute.
Terror, Mass Transit, and Social Soil
Terrorism, War on Terror and the Message of Carnage
What are your views? Share your opinions with The Progress Report!