I’ve been working at my current job for longer than any of my other jobs. Sure, there was some part time work during college and a bunch of PA gigs when I first moved to LA, but I’ve been working at my ad agency for a full five national tragedies. That’s especially impressive considering that I’ve worked a bunch of jobs for months with no national tragedies at all.
Aurora, Clackamas Town Center, Newtown, Christopher Dorner rampage, and now Boston. With the exception of Aurora, which happened late at night on a Friday, I’ve learned about all the other tragedies the exact same way: Sitting in my office, listening to the clatter of keyboards all around me, ping-ponging between Reddit and Facebook to avoid working, when suddenly people start posting statuses about which city they’re praying for and I rush to Google for the details.
Every time, information is maddeningly slow and inaccurate at first, but throughout the day a progressively more horrifying picture is painted by trial and error as hard facts start to trickle out and falsehoods are corrected: No fatalities becomes two. He’s in San Diego, then he’s in Mexico, then he’s in Northridge. A suspect was arrested in the woods outside the school. There are five bombs. He’s in Big Bear shooting it out with the cops. My ex-girlfriend’s mother is one of the victims. 20 dead children. Just two bombs. He was using an automatic rifle. A Saudi was arrested. It was a semiautomatic rifle. The Saudi isn’t a suspect. The cabin is on fire. Pressure cookers.
Blowing up anyone, anywhere is despicable, but something about blowing people up at a marathon seems especially evil. A marathon is a celebration of athletic ability and not much else. The people who show up to watch are basically watching a slow, sweaty parade, but they still turn out in droves because there’s something impressive about a person running 26.2 miles.
Somebody went to that event and dropped off a couple of pressure cookers full of gunpowder and ball bearings at ground level in a crowd of running enthusiasts, and now an unspecified number of them don’t have legs anymore. That’s heartbreaking. As is the eight year old boy, the restaurant manager, and the Chinese student. They all just wanted to watch people running.
But through everything that’s happened in the past couple of days – the bombs, the suspicious packages, the pictures, the videos, the yellow journalism, the misinformation, and the sheer volume of things we don’t know – I’m really not feeling terrorized.
I'm very sad. I’m sad for the people who died and got maimed and their families, and for people in Boston, many of whom I imagine do feel terrorized, and I’m sad that the knee-jerk reaction was to blame this on Muslims with no evidence.
But I don’t feel especially terrorized. Truth be told, I don’t even feel a little terrorized. I imagine terrorists don’t have feedback cards like they do for the waiters at Red Robin, but if they did I’d give them a frowny-face and a 1 out of 5 in the ‘DID WE TERRORIZE YOU?’ department.
I watched a lot of news on Monday, but I also wrote up several pages of goofy copy lines for an iOS game ad campaign. Yesterday night my friend and I got drunk and watched Kingpin. Today I got frustrated when I repeatedly had to stipulate that I wanted my felafel to go when I ordered lunch.
These are not the activities of a terrorized person. I didn’t cry or curl up into a ball or develop a nervous tic. I was not paralyzed with fear of imminent violence. I felt bad - especially as more pictures from the day surfaced - but not afraid.
My officemate watched an episode of Friday Night Lights yesterday when things were slow. Today I passed an account executive in the hallway who, apropos of nothing, looked at me and laughed, “We’re all monkeys, Truman!” Unless they’re hiding it really well, my coworkers seem to be doing fine too.
Maybe we're just numb to tragedy.
Terrorists have set a pretty high bar for themselves. No matter what type of terrorist you are – Muslim, American, right wing, left wing – 9/11 is a really tough act to follow. When I was 12 I watched terrorists fly jumbo jets into buildings and people on fire jumping hundreds of stories to their deaths. You think a fucking bomb is going to terrorize me now?
Maybe it's because I've spent half of my life watching my country violently, clumsily chasing terrorists all over the world that they're just not that scary to me anymore. I might change my tune if suspicious pressure cookers start showing up in Los Angeles, but until that happens I don't see the point in worrying about it.
To be honest, I'm more terrified of what Congress will do to 'protect' us from terrorists than I am of the terrorists themselves.
Truman Capps will one day run out of post-disaster pessimism and just post cat pictures instead.