This was supposed to be a story about Cincinnati. The jokes are already outlined in my head — our collective brashness, our childlike enthusiasm for sports and intention to play them (while drinking several beers) until our orthopedic surgeons forbid us to take another swing at a giant baseball pitched underhand.
“Sir,” they’ll say, earnestly, because many of our doctors also grew up in Cincinnati and enjoy recreation, competition and drinking beer just like the rest of us, “it’s time you focused your energy on competitive bean bag tossing. Make wagers with your friends; spend more time with your wife; hurt yourself less now and you’ll enjoy retirement in Florida that much more.”
No one wants to hear this story right now.
On April 15, Cincinnatians focused their attention on a nearly 400-year-old city 800 miles from us because, in the grand scheme of things, that’s really not so far away. From our presumably safe offices in the southwestern corner of a state rarely mentioned in the same sentence as Massachusetts, we watched, listened and talked about what happened to hundreds of people at the finish line of the world’s most famous marathon.
It was so sad it’s hard to comprehend.
As of CityBeat’s press time, the latest reports had three people dead and at least 140 injured from the two bombs that exploded near the Boston Marathon finish line around 3 p.m. No Cincinnatians appear to have been hurt, and authorities are still investigating how it happened.
Eleven and a half years ago, Americans saw a level of death and destruction on U.S. soil we hadn’t seen since World War II. For many of us it was the first time we ever realized something bad could happen here, having downplayed or completely disregarded our parents’ and grandparents’ warnings that other countries could and would try to attack us.
Maybe it’s because our parents lived through the inglorious Vietnam War, and the biggest international conflict we saw growing up was the six-month Gulf War, the details of which looked more like an 8-bit Nintendo game than anything resembling a gory war zone. Anyone who pointed and clicked on Internet links April 15 viewed images and videos a lot more disturbing than the grainy videos of robots blowing stuff up in the night we saw back then.
Since 9/11, Americans have been forced to consider our country’s legacy in new ways. The economy is too complicated to argue about over dinner. Currency and trade agreements facilitate international friendships and conflicts, though most of us don’t really know why or how much they cost. Our political discussions, whether local, national or international, are pathetically cursory: one side versus the other; talking point against random statistic.
Until tragedy strikes.
Today we see Bostonians as our brothers and sisters. Like Cincinnati, Boston has a long history and is proud of its working-class heritage. They also like their sports. When the Cincinnati Red Stockings disbanded in 1871, their manager helped start the Boston Red Stockings, who eventually moved to Atlanta but were the inspiration behind the 1908 naming of the newly formed Boston Red Sox.
The Sox defeated Tampa Bay 3-2 about an hour before the explosions rocked the marathon finish line just blocks away from Fenway Park.
In less than three weeks, we’ll host our own marathon, the 15th edition of the Flying Pig, which annually raises tens of thousands of dollars for charity and celebrates Cincinnati and our quirky pork-producing heritage. Local authorities are already reviewing security measures with race organizers.
Today our leaders stand together, united against a common enemy, trying to explain where our domestic security stands more than a decade after the start of the Iraq War, which now is fought in Afghanistan and, presumably, wherever else it needs to be.
We’ve had time to figure out whether anyone we know was hurt in Boston. Now we’ll mourn for those affected and appreciate the little things in life for as long as we can.
But we’ll eventually go back to our normal lives.
Politicians will soon explain this attack in their own ways, each slightly less respectful of what it means to those directly affected by it. After enough time passes our leaders will transition from their textbook emotional responses to something outlined on a party platform.
Maybe we need more police. Or to halt cuts in defense spending. Maybe it would help to pull out of Afghanistan. Or would that make it worse?
As of CityBeat’s press time, authorities still don’t know whether the attack was domestic or international terrorism. And, obviously, these types of attacks go back beyond the start of the Iraq War. The 1996 bombing of the Atlanta Olympics was similarly destructive and surprising. Maybe these things are just part of life now.
At the end of the day, we would be better off remembering what life is like on the good days and using this type of tragedy as a reminder that we need to work toward a more peaceful future.
Despite how little we feel it during our everyday lives, America is still at war. And whether the incident in Boston was planned in Saudi Arabia or Yemen or Colorado or Connecticut, they’re all the same at this point.
The Boston Marathon and Patriots’ Day are celebrations of American culture — an athletic event and festivity much more representative of American life than the government buildings that were targeted before.
The Boston Marathon is this country at its best, and that’s what makes this tragedy hurt us so badly.
CONTACT DANNY CROSS: [email protected]