A sad week in America

2013-04-19 10:11
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Boston Marathon bomb suspects

See the series of images released by the FBI showing the two people who are suspected to be responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings.

Chicago - For America, this 16th week of 2013 will not be remembered with much fondness. It began with explosions that killed three people at the end of the Boston Marathon course. It continued with poisoned letters sent to senior government officials, including the president. And then the Senate killed off (admittedly mediocre) gun legislation backed by 90% of Americans. And to cap it off, in eastern Texas a fertiliser plant exploded – at the time of writing local authorities claim 160 people were injured, and the death toll is not yet certain, as rescuers are still searching through rubble.

Kicking off the week with an attack on one of the USA’s premier cities, on a day so important to Boston, was always going to make this a hard week. And as shock and horror have turned into emotions of anger, law enforcement has been unable thus far – in spite of what has been said in some absolutely horrendous reporting – to give the country anyone to blame. There is no suspect. No one has claimed responsibility for the bombings. The FBI and local spokespeople are giving very little away, although they released pictures of suspects. There is nowhere yet that America can aim its anger. As things stand the public has no idea if it was even a foreign- or domestic-led attack. Nothing. Instead, there is still a tragic stream of reports about the three people who died, those who had to undergo amputations, those who remain in hospital, and the mourning that is underway for the attack’s victims.

Almost dwarfed by the Boston tragedy, perhaps justifiably, was the story of a man who sent letters laced with the toxin ricin to three officials: a judge in Mississippi, US Senator from Mississippi Roger Wicker, and President Barack Obama. Although details about the letter to the judge are trickier to come by, the letters addressed to the latter two were intercepted by facilities that screen all incoming mail. Two other senators’ offices also reported suspicious packages but they were given the all clear. Although federal law enforcement has arrested a suspect, the levels of the ricin are still being tested to see precisely what the charges will be.

In one week, people were brought back to realise that there are possibly terrorist attacks happening on American soil, and that there are still assassination attempts on public officials. If the population had any concerns about safety, in this, the world’s most highly-protected country, it has certainly seen them exacerbated.

And then within the government, (admittedly weak) gun control measures backed by 90% of the country, according to a series of polls, failed because of a procedural quirk (which you may hear referenced as a filibuster – a common term for all the procedural delaying and blocking the minority party can exact on the majority in the Senate). Although a majority of Senators voted for the most high-profile piece of the legislation – 54 to 46 – the motion to expand the system of background checks for gun buyers failed because it required 60 votes in the 100-member body. It would have passed if the bill was given a normal up-or-down vote, as was once usual. While the bill would have affected only a small margin of people, and not prevented the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown Connecticut, which was the event that sparked this legislative journey, it does mean that not one gun law has been changed, updated or strengthened since those twenty children were gunned down in December. Any gun law proposals are now dead, finish and klaar, unless a significant number of senators change their minds.

Although the votes were mostly along party lines, there was some crossover – some Democrats from conservative states voted against the legislation, while a few Republicans from competitive states voted for the new rules. There are huge calls of “cowardice” being directed at the few Democrats and many Republicans who killed of the bills, and accusations of being under the cosh of the National Rifle Association. While this could be true for some representatives, a few of the most prominent are totally against any new gun laws, led by the trio of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Kentucky mostly-libertarian Senator Rand Paul and Utah Senator Mike Lee.

And then, to cap off an awful week, the explosion at a fertiliser plant in the small town of West, Texas. As things stand officials still don’t have an exact death toll, but remain searching through the rubble of nearby buildings that were flattened. The fire that caused the explosion was also, tragically, being attended to by a team of volunteer firefighters at the time of the blast, and they are feared amongst the dead. The search is ongoing, but officials estimate that up to 40 people lost their lives.

This week Americans saw an attack on innocent civilians on a pretty special annual event. They saw someone try to kill three elected officials. They saw the legislative arm of the government wilfully ignore what an overwhelming majority of Americans support. And they saw a team of volunteer firefighters and residents of a small town lose their lives and property.

All in all, a pretty sad week. And there’s still Friday to go.

Read more on:    us  |  boston explosions

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