Saturday, April 27, 2013

Bathos should be banned in Boston

Let’s put a stop to the Boston bathos. It’s cheap and meaningless. Yes, the Marathon bombing was a dramatic crime, with pain and sadness and now sheer puzzlement at why it came about. However, it was not the crime of the century: the century is young and so far 9/11 casts a long shadow on it.

So let's not inflate the significance of every last detail and every last bystander. Certainly, let's not create "sacred" public space (isn't that unconstitutional, anyway?).

Death is one of the most common human experiences. Maybe we should learn to talk about it normally. Let's stop spending our lives pretending death doesn't exist. Let's -- gasp! -- tell the children.

Death and taxes, said Ben Franklin. Love and death, said Woody Allen (at the very end of "Sleeper"). Certainties. Inevitable. Painful.

Significance inflation is a phenomenon I date back to the death of Princess Diana.

Remember the sea of white wrapping paper in front of Buckingham Palace? (One should take the wrapping off when leaving flowers; the flowers will wilt and bio-degrade on their own, but the wrapping is just more fodder for landfills.)

In the United States, 9/11 and the phony "war on terror" brought us instant “heroes” -- just add tears and stir.

Getting shot while in uniform makes you very unlucky. It’s sad for the family and as a human being it’s a loss to all of us. But it’s not heroic unless there was actual heroism involved. Heroism involves  valor, prowess, gallantry, bravery, courage, daring and fortitude.

The MIT guard shot dead, mostly as part of a misdeed going sour, was surely a decent person, but nothing in what happened suggests heroism on his part.

Lastly, let’s not canonize pretty young women when they unknowingly happen to be at the wrong place and the wrong time. Joan of Arc was young, and some say beautiful and courageous, but she actually sought out the struggle that got her martyred. To be a martyr is to give witness to a conviction or faith to the point of death; it involves a conscious choice.

The death of the young bystander was, again, bad luck. A fluke. I was painfully embarrassed by maudlin public display put on by her mother.

In sum, now that the adrenalin is down, let's be sensible.


Anne Malcolm said...

"Heroism involves valor, prowess, gallantry, bravery, courage, daring and fortitude."

Agree, everyone is a hero nowadays.

Bill Bole said...

I agree that the notion of heroism has been skewed by these events. But I don't think that's the only or even a very good way to look at genuine displays of collective grief.