This morning, over on this side of the world, we woke up to some horrifying news. Two bombs had gone off at the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 140 others.
Scores of articles and images flooded our Facebook and Twitter feeds. Bloodied pavements, frenzied crowds, panicked policemen. Men with their legs blown off, a woman lying motionless on the road, an elderly man fallen on the ground.
Then came the reactions. #prayforboston was on everyone’s lips.
Then, as they always do, the alternative views came along.
A news report about the US firing on a wedding in Afghanistan, killing 30, came up.
People questioned: What was 3 deaths in Boston compared to the 30 in Afghanistan?
People were vehemently expressing distaste for those tweeting and facebooking about the Boston bombs, citing that our concern was fake because most of us, being from Singapore, don’t know anyone who was injured or killed in the blast.
Some called others ignorant for getting upset about the Boston bombing but not being bothered by the 30 wedding goers who had died in Afghanistan.
There have been reports of the Afghan wedding article being a hoax. Some say it’s outdated. Some say it’s been taken out of context.
But it doesn’t matter. It’s true that innocents are dying in Afghanistan. It’s true that the media doesn’t report much on the deaths in Afghan. And, yeah, we did get more emotionally affected by the Boston news than the Afghan one.
But the reason is simple.
There aren’t many differences between Boston and Singapore, or any other “peaceful” country right now, and so, the incident was a reminder to us that life is so fragile. You could be out one day having a good time at a birthday celebration, concert or marathon, and then suddenly, bam. Your life could be over.
It’s terrifying. Those panicked, injured people could have been us. We could be going on with our every day lives, not knowing that this one day, someone somewhere had planted a bomb right by the bus stop you walk by every day. It’s terrifying.
Why do we “#prayforboston”? Because we emphathise with the victims. It could have been us. And we understand that. We can only imagine the shock, the anger, and the pain that they’re going through, but we understand why they might feel that way.
Is it selfish? Is it fake? It’s anything but. We are genuinely saddened by the victims of the Boston bombing. Because lives were lost. Whether it was three, or 30, or 300 deaths, they are worth mourning over or praying for.
Maybe we aren’t as affected by news about people in Afghanistan dying, because we’ve gone through more than a decade of such reports that it’s just too much for us to be emotionally affected every time a bomb goes off there. It’s depressing to read about people dying and not being able to do anything about it for years and years, so most of us just switch off to such news. But that would apply to the same instance in any country.
There is no reason for people to get upset at us for showing concern for Boston.
Even if some people hashtagged prayforboston only because everyone else was doing it, so what?
This is not a case of a big celebrity dying and having hipsters suddenly proclaim to be massive fans. This was an act of terror. (Even if Obama doesn’t want to say so outright). People died. People lost their legs. People are reminded of a fateful day when four planes were hijacked and rammed into significant buildings, killing almost 3000 people.
I think that’s something worth praying over.
True, people like the victims of the Afghan wedding bombing (outdated or not) deserve our prayers too. It is reported that 1462 Afghan civilians died in 2011 alone; I don’t even know how many Afghan civilians have died in total over the past 12 years. So pray for them too.
Pray for the Afghans. But, also, pray for the Americans. Three deaths aren’t as horrifying as 30, but they are, nonetheless, lives.