Jean Barker

USA: Better than Bombs

2013-04-19 09:16

Jean Barker

I assumed the bomb attacks in Boston would play straight into the hands of the Islamaphobes who'd love to just "kill 'em all". But it seems like Americans - in general - are rising above it and proving me wrong.

"Al-Qaeda is a real threat. But terrorism has no religion." Well put, Al-Marayati, member of the Faith-Based Advisory Committee of the president's Homeland Security Advisory Council.

Of course, the people who really need to hear al-Marayati's words won't be listening. Events like the Boston bombings play straight into the filthy hands of those who are longing for an excuse to violently express their hatred in the name of "fighting terrorism". As news of the bombings came through, Muslim Americans were not only mourning the loss of lives, but simultaneously praying: "Please, don't let it be a Muslim."

People immediately assumed it was a Muslim, of course. A "Saudi National" was described as "fleeing the scene" and handed over to police by people in the crowd. Fleeing the scene? Really? So were most people. It's called "running away from an explosion". Which is what he was doing, covered in blood. He was questioned by the police and released after his apartment was searched. Muslims in Boston are afraid to volunteer their time in the wake of the explosion, in case they're met with racism.

Nebulous fear

So when the FBI finally released photos of two suspects in the Boston bombing, it seemed to many Muslims that the worst possible thing had happened. The suspects are definitely Semitic. This means they could be Lebanese or Israeli...or innocent people carrying big backpacks. But you can be pretty sure America is assuming they're Muslim fundamentalist extremists.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack, which means that it feels like "it could be anyone".

This nebulous fear is the last thing America needs right now, especially with some lunatic snail-mailing ricin to the president, gun control legislation failing, and an exploding fertiliser factory adding to the shit-storm. As satire website The Onion put it: Jesus, This Week!

I'm old enough to remember going to the post office during the State of Emergency in South Africa. Being a nerd, I collected stamps. There were always posters on the walls, encouraging civilians to look for bombs and warning of the terrorist threats. The racial undertones of apartheid propaganda were pretty explicit. Fear... works.

Terror attacks tend to bring the crazy racist out in otherwise normal people. Like the random mad white male who punched and abused a Syrian-American woman and accused her of the Boston bombings as she was out walking with her baby in a stroller on Thursday. But apart from this incident, there hasn't been a wave of stupid reprisals against innocent Americans resembling the one that followed 911.

Ray of hope

In the wake of the terror attack, most Bostonians have been heroically sane.

Obama's call for calm and Boston's ability to be bigger than the killers who attacked the city is a ray of hope that - this time - America is planning to beat the terrorists, not join them in the name of "justice". While right wing racists are trying to turn Boston's pain to their advantage, even accusing Obama of conspiring with the Saudi Arabian government to shelter terrorists, people who know better seem to be resisting the call to craziness.

It's at times like this that I am grateful once again that Obama - not someone like Bush or Romney - is president of the country that I live in, and of the country that I have come to care about more than I ever expected to.

- Jean is a screenwriting/directing dual MFA student in California, USA. She tweets as @jeanbarker and blogs pictures of signs and more, here. She will be back.

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