FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Flag Flies at Half-Staff

by HOWARD LISNOFF

There is a cemetery in rural Massachusetts where the U.S. flag flew at half-mast on Saturday. Cemeteries in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts have both a haunting and historical character. Their graves are often stained from centuries of wear and mark the places where people often lie long ago forgotten. A person cannot be farther from Boston than in rural Western Massachusetts, a place that is set among the beautifully rolling hills between the Taconic and Berkshire ranges where Massachusetts meets New York State. Spring has finally come here with daffodil, crocus, budding maple, and the fire yellow of forsythia. It is good to be alive among these hills in spring even within the deep grip of grief.

The insanity of contemporary society once again unleashed its wrath on the streets, this time in Boston. And as if unbounded grief needed reinforcement, at least 14 died in West, Texas with unfathomable destruction from a chemical fertilizer blast that has also left scores injured and missing. And if Newtown, Connecticut and this week’s vote against gun control in the U.S. Senate could be factored in, then the U.S. is now caught in a perfect storm of mayhem and despair.

Brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev allegedly set off two lethal bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday afternoon killing 3 and maiming hundreds of innocent bystanders. The Marathon is held on Patriots Day, a holiday that commemorates the spirit of the victorious rebels of the American Revolution. It is a spirited and unparalleled holiday. The brothers later engaged an M.I.T. police officer and killed him in a hail of gunfire, and then brought their trail of mayhem and death to an exponential level with a gunfight reminiscent of Bonnie and Clyde in Watertown, Massachusetts, only miles away from the scene of the Marathon bombings and M.I.T. murder.

And as if scripted out of a scenario from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, all of Boston went into a self-imposed lockdown with Watertown experiencing the door-to-door searches for the survivor of the earlier gunfight, the younger of the two brothers, Dzhokhar, who was holding up in a boat in a backyard of the city and was finally discovered by the homeowner who happened to see blood on the torn shrink wrapping that had sealed the boat for the winter months. If the surreal would not give up its claim on the scenes just described, residents came out to wildly cheer as police left the city, with Dzhokhar transported by ambulance seriously injured to a local hospital.

What has gone so terribly wrong here? A careful reading of our history reveals that the government vigorously supported the religious fundamentalist zealots of the mujahideen from the presidential administrations of Jimmy Carter through George H.W. Bush, before casting them off to hone their designs against the U.S. following the First Gulf War in 1991 when the U.S.  established a military presence in Saudi Arabia to conduct its short war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq. And it may be that the elder Tsarnaev became angry and alienated enough, and under the influence of the radical fundamentalist elements that have been spawned by the unending War on Terror, that he planned to visit mayhem and death on the streets of Boston and its suburbs? Tamerlan was known to the F.B.I., having been  questioned by the F.B.I in response to a request by the Russian government in 2011. The next year he traveled to both Chechnya and Dagestan. But in 2011 the F.B.I. did not view him as a risk for “terrorism activity” (“Investigators Dig for Roots of Bomb Suspects’ Radicalization,” The New York Times, April 21, 2013).

And in West, Texas on Wednesday an explosion and fire at West Fertilizer Company leveled a wide swath of that town in scenes reminiscent of the blast that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995. (There is no suspicious motive in the Texas explosion at this writing.) In West, Texas, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration was nowhere is sight to fulfill its duty to inspect workplaces where dangerous chemicals are routinely used. Indeed, with only slightly over 2,000 agents, O.S.H.A. routinely only investigates sites where unionized workers are bold enough to risk becoming whistle-blowers.

With the union movement all but decimated by the globalized economy, and Texas a proudly right-to-work state, there were no whistles to alert anyone to the potential for the devastation and death and horror of last Wednesday. And in any case, how could the nation comprehend the deaths in West, Texas when only 2 days after terror visited the streets of Boston?

The horrific scenes of the past week leave lingering questions:

* Is U.S. foreign, domestic, and military policy still caught in the lethal tangle of blowback for its support for radical fundamentalists in the 1970s and 1980s and the unending War on Terror?

* Are the deaths and injuries of the innocent less important from a workplace explosion than from a nefarious plot at a sporting event?

* Have the horrible deaths of innocent children, teachers, and a school administrator in Newtown, Connecticut been lost in fleeting images as just another media event?

* Is there a moral compass with which the U.S. political system operates when it comes to the proliferation of firearms?

* Will the criminal justice system be reduced to chaos in seeking only revenge for the heinous massacre on the streets of Boston, or will we learn something as a nation about why horror is repeatedly visited on our streets?

Mahatma Gandhi said that “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” It does not take great powers of deduction to know that is where we find ourselves as a nation.

The flag flies at half-staff over the graves of past generations in rural Massachusetts far from the shattered streets and lives of Boston and its suburbs. The dead have a claim to justice. We have a right to truth and peace.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He can be reached at howielisnoff@gmail.com.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 30, 2016
Russell Mokhiber
Matt Funiciello and the Giant Sucking Sound Coming Off Lake Champlain
Mike Whitney
Three Cheers for Kaepernick: Is Sitting During the National Anthem an Acceptable Form of Protest?
Alice Bach
Sorrow and Grace in Palestine
Sam Husseini
Why We Should All Remain Seated: the Anti-Muslim Origins of “The Star-Spangled Banner”
Richard Moser
Transformative Movement Culture and the Inside/Outside Strategy: Do We Want to Win the Argument or Build the Movement?
Nozomi Hayase
Pathology, Incorporated: the Facade of American Democracy
David Swanson
Fredric Jameson’s War Machine
Jan Oberg
How Did the West Survive a Much Stronger Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact?
Linda Gunter
The Racism of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima Bombings
Dmitry Kovalevich
In Ukraine: Independence From the People
Omar Kassem
Turkey Breaks Out in Jarablus as Fear and Loathing Grip Europe
George Wuerthner
A Birthday Gift to the National Parks: the Maine Woods National Monument
Logan Glitterbomb
Indigenous Property Rights and the Dakota Access Pipeline
National Lawyers Guild
Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against Dakota Access Pipeline
Paul Messersmith-Glavin
100 in Anarchist Years
August 29, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot
Patrick Timmons
Dildos on Campus, Gun in the Library: the New York Times and the Texas Gun War
Jack Rasmus
Bernie Sanders ‘OR’ Revolution: a Statement or a Question?
Richard Moser
Strategic Choreography and Inside/Outside Organizers
Nigel Clarke
President Obama’s “Now Watch This Drive” Moment
Robert Fisk
Iraq’s Willing Executioners
Wahid Azal
The Banality of Evil and the Ivory Tower Masterminds of the 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran
Farzana Versey
Romancing the Activist
Frances Madeson
Meet the Geronimos: Apache Leader’s Descendants Talk About Living With the Legacy
Nauman Sadiq
The War on Terror and the Carter Doctrine
Lawrence Wittner
Does the Democratic Party Have a Progressive Platform–and Does It Matter?
Marjorie Cohn
Death to the Death Penalty in California
Winslow Myers
Asking the Right Questions
Rivera Sun
The Sane Candidate: Which Representatives Will End the Endless Wars?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Burkinis: the Politics of Beachwear
Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail