Boston Marathon Terror: Choosing Violence Over VictoryApril 18th, 2013 by Dean Foster | Discuss This »
It’s hard getting through the day sometimes, especially on days where terror, so prevalent daily in so many parts of the world, strikes close to home. It becomes hard to keep perspective on the fact that every day in some part of the world, terror is killing innocent people, when it hits your own neighborhood. Then – and often only then – does terror remind us of one of the saddest realities of the human condition in the 21st century: the ubiquity of unprecedented levels of violence directed at the innocent. Boston brought that home for me, a New Yorker, once again.
I am also an interculturalist, and the Boston terror attack also reminded me of an intercultural reality that is all too easy to overlook and admit: that cultural contact does not inherently produce peace, brotherhood, understanding and kumbaya. If anything, cultural contact, as a phenomenon in and of itself, and in the absence of real understanding and intentional effort to implement justice, opportunity and equality (the hard work), when it occurs more likely produces misunderstanding, hostility, and violence. In the 21st century, technology, communication, transportation, the development of global culture and global work, all have produced opportunities for cultural contact on a massive scale, never experienced before in human history. But we need to be clear: this increased cultural contact by itself tends to produce, possibly an awareness of differences, but no real understanding of those differences, and without those intentional efforts at justice and opportunity that I mentioned above, cultural contact in and of itself, can more often become a reason for violent conflict. This has been the historic pattern, and there is no reason to believe that it won’t continue in our century…exponentially, in fact, as our cultural contact experiences have increased exponentially in a globalized world.
It shouldn’t be surprising, therefore, that wherever we have the opportunity for cultural contact, we also have the opportunity for violence, whether the venue is a “global gathering” like a marathon, an Olympics, or a G10 meeting; or a social or civic venue where cultures gather, like in a movie theater, factory, office or school. There is, of course, in cultural contact, also the opportunity for learning, growth, new experiences, new ways of being, thinking and doing. The choice in how we respond to cultural contact is always there: we can learn from it, or we can react violently against it. And while the choice is always being made for reasons, sane and sometimes not, that have nothing immediately to do with cultural contact and more to do with political agendas and personality disorders, these choices are being made in our 21st century world, which is a world of intense cultural contact. Sadly, the great global gathering of the Boston marathon in a sense became a flashpoint for the expression of a choice that was made by some individual or group, to advance terror instead of celebrating the possibilities of our interconnected humanity that the marathon represented. Until the benefits of intercultural understanding, justice and opportunity are extended to all, I am afraid we will need to endure more such awful choices in the future. In a world filled with cultural contact, we have new opportunities to see ourselves in new and different ways, to learn from each other as never before in human history, but whether we choose to do so, is the terrible question.