The ongoing hunt for the Marathon Bombers has a surreal quality at this point on Friday, where a conclusion of sorts is shaping up in Prime Time on Friday evening. If someone wanted to script an action-adventure mini-series, it's hard to imagine a story line that could top what has unfolded over the last five days, absent zombies and/or nuclear weapons.
Could there be any more clichés at this point? An opening act of terror followed by heroes rushing into danger. Anger and frustration as authorities launch a massive effort to uncover the perpetrators - and deal with a press frantic for news to keep their audiences enthralled. 'Experts' of all kinds filling the airwaves with all kinds of nonsense; the usual suspects taking cheap shots at their own pet hobbyhorses.
The mandatory moment of sorrow, resolution and inspiration as leaders gather to promise justice will be done. The break in the case as suspects are identified and the public is asked to help. The 'human interest' angles that emerge while the hours pass without a break. The breaking news... that fails to pan out.
And then the dramatic moment when the chase begins. Shootings, bombs being thrown, bullets flying in every direction, more casualties including one of the suspects. An entire city locked down while hundreds of police and troops carry out a man hunt. A press conference after hours of fruitless searching. Then, just as everyone is starting to stand down and breathe again, gunfire heard in the distance, sirens and flashing lights, police closing in. Tweets saying "Suspect in custody. Stand by for further info."
For the people who have lost their lives, the injured, the families and friends, the reality is too painful. This is real for them in a way that will never emerge through a TV screen for the rest of us. Lt. Col. Robert Bateman has a few words of advice for those who haven't quite grasped the reality of bullets in motion. A small excerpt:
6. In the real world, I have converted a sedan into a convertible, quite easily, using bullets. Not even a lot of bullets either. If the other guy is firing anything with greater hitting power than, say, a .32 (Google .32 caliber, .45 caliber, 5.56mm and 7.62mm...I can't do it ALL for you) it will go through things. Metals, woods, sheet-rock? No problem. Your front door will not protect you, at all. Nor will the walls of a normal suburban house, nor the three Sheet-rock walls beyond that. In a car, the only thing that really stops most bullets would be the engine block itself. All the rest of the body of a car, well, basically tin-foil. All those cop movies you remember from the 70s, when they hid behind the opened door of their patrol car and shot at the bad guy? Yea, no. Do not think that works. That is stupid, and nobody but actors in Hollywood actually does that.Forget what you see on TV or in the Movies. Forget the NRA fantasies about guns making you safe. Read the whole thing. Meanwhile...
It now looks like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been captured alive, but wounded. How severely is not known. Will he survive long enough to supply some answers? Will he live to face trial? Will there be more arrests? More surprises? Will the story go in unexpected directions?
Will we ever find out why?
The horror, the death, the fear is almost too much. It can be all-consuming. People are applauding as the police pull out. They can get on with their lives for now, some of them anyway. The heroism, the courage, the determination on display in the last five days shows how the worst of human nature brings out its opposite in that old paradox.
There is evil in the world. No question about that. There is also good. Sometimes neither of them can be ignored. They reach out and rip us from the comfortable ruts we build for ourselves, the chains of habit and deliberate inattention. Events drive us with their own inexorable logic till some kind of conclusion is reached. And then we try to go back to our lives.
But good and evil are still out there, whether or not we are paying attention. A fertilizer plant blows up in Texas, and people wonder if maybe things should have been done differently over the years. If they wonder at all - picking through wreckage takes a lot of concentration. A group of politicians in Washington ignores the will of the majority of Americans in order to defend our right to kill and maim each other with firearms - and the profits of those who sell them. Indianapolis deals with weather, even as there are arguments over whether or not climate change can be blamed for what's going on. A supreme court justice mocks the idea of voting rights as some kind of unreasonable entitlement.
The world is made by the people who show up for the job.
UPDATE: Charles P. Pierce has a couple of pieces up at Esquire that capture far better than anything I could write a sense of what happened in Boston, and the import of it for the rest of us. Guns Along The River: A Late Night In Watertown is a compelling picture of Friday's events.
It was a day that began with a guy coming home from work and wandering into a firefight. It was a day that ended with another guy coming home from a day beside the ocean and wandering into another one. It was a day on unearthly quiet along the wooded paths along the river. It was a day of rumors and doubt, and heavy weaponry around the Target and the Best Buy. It was a day of sheltering in place. It was a day in which the essential geography of my life — "Hey, there's the place where I blog every day!" — turned into a place of dark corners and of rustling in the underbrush. And it ended with cheers rising from an old cemetery where buried are some of the casualties from Bunker Hill.The Day After -- Midnight On Franklin Street is a meditation on where things will go from here.
The sawhorses were comforting because the events of the past week are now getting fed into a number of gigantic maws, none of which are likely to do the rest of us any good. They are being fed into the big media maw, with speculation now completely rampant as to what launched the Tsarnaev brothers on their crime spree. While Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was still at large, with a few notable exceptions -- coughNewYorkPostcough -- big media went out of their way to appear responsible. Now, though, with the younger suspect on a respirator at Beth Israel, all the shackles were off, and we spent the day hearing wild speculation of what may have been behind the murderous doings in and around Boston last week. The events also are being fed into the maw of big politics with the federal government invoking the "public safety" exception to the Miranda ruling in connection with a 19-year old who is, at this moment, breathing through a tube and who, anyway, by all the evidence available at this moment, appears to be still little more than Dylan Klebold with a funny name and a pulse.The reality of what happened this week in Boston is already well on the way to being ground up like so much raw innards along with handfuls of spices and other additives, to be stuffed into the sausage casings of the assorted political agendas out there. Raw truth does not suit the American palate, not after years of media junk food.