In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, the details of the three victims killed are making their rounds on the internet. CNN reports that they were a 29-year-old woman, an 8-year-old boy, and a foreign exchange graduate student from Boston University. Their families mourn as the media continues to report every detail — confirmed or not — of the freshly labeled terrorist attack.
CNN profiles each victim, reminding audiences of the gruesome humanity of the incident. Krystle Campbell, the 29-year-old woman, was a fun loving, beautiful girl — as described by her elderly grandmother. Her mother described her as the best daughter anyone could ever want. Their pain is palpable in the dramatically worded stories reporting the death.
The little boy killed was a huge fan of the Boston Red Sox and the Bruins. Martin loved sports and excelled in school, helping classmates with homework. A neighbor described his family as “all-American,” but his potential is “snuffed out” forever. The third victim’s identity was undisclosed, except for the fact that she had come from halfway around the world — China — to study at an American university. She had gone to watch the marathon with her friends from school.
While these portraits of individual tragedy are difficult to swallow, it is impossible not to wonder what might happen if the media that sensationalizes the Boston bombing spent 1/100 of the effort covering other “terrorist attacks,” as well. Barack Obama explained that “any time bombs are used on innocent civilians, it is a terrorist attack.” What if the reporters of the corporate media spent their hours detailing the lives and interests of children bombed in Pakistan or Afghanistan? Children who loved sports, playing outside (when there seems to be no risk of a drone attack), and their parents. The media would be busy for years covering the slaughter of innocent civilians in bombings in Iraq — the “war on terror” would be relabeled a war of terror.
It would be a shock, if instead of making excuses for the soldiers who lose their minds to PTSD and the general horrors of enforcing occupation, the media recognized the humanity of the civilians they violently murder. Were CNN, FOX, or MSNBC — or the New York Times or USA Today for that matter — to provide personal details about the dead, it would affect policy more than the martyred victims of the Boston massacre. Then perhaps said journalists could discuss the veterans who kill themselves because of what they experience and witness.
If Americans had to hear of grieving mothers half-way around the world whose families were taken from them because of American-made bombs, more proaction could be taken. It would save a greater number of lives than the beefed up security — in response to Monday’s tragedy — in major cities across the country.
The sad deaths of “all-Americans” and perfect daughters evoke particular sympathy and compassion among American nationalists. However, the same journalistic focus, when applied to horrific US foreign policy, might mobilize public opinion to put a stop to the much bigger, more systemic plague of innocent death at the hands of the US military. Instead of focusing only on the tragedy of American death and suffering, Americans could expand their understanding of terrorism, as well as their compassion, by learning about the daily deaths of promising human life on a global scale. The victims may not be fair-skinned or from cozy American suburbs, but their potential is snuffed out and their families mourn them all the same.