I’ve had enough of hearing about the Boston marathon bombings. Not because they weren’t terrible – they were. Not because I don’t have sympathy for those killed and injured, and their families – I do. My reason for being thoroughly fed up with the incessant stream of updates is that they seem to indicate that some human lives are worth less than others.
Three people were killed in Boston on April 15th and many more injured, some of them seriously. That’s horrible, but I want to put this in some kind of global perspective. The day afterwards, April 16th, some 42 people were killed and 257 more injured in a series of bombings in Iraq. In Syria scores of people, including women and children, are dying by the day. In Pakistan only yesterday eight people were killed in in a string of attacks. These events made the news – but only just. They attracted barely a fraction of the attention that was lavished on the city of Boston which suffered far fewer casualties.
The fact that the Boston bombings were out of the ordinary was a factor, of course. Terrorist attacks on mainland USA are rare, whereas bombings in many parts of the world, including Iraq, Syria and Pakistan, are depressingly commonplace. But even so, the disparity in coverage concerns and depresses me. It’s hard to escape the notion that the value of a human life varies from country to country. It reminds me of the dark joke which came out of the 2005 Indian Ocean tsunami, when people protested the disparity in media coverage by saying “3 Americans killed in tsunami”, implying that the other 230,000 of different nationalities didn’t matter so much.
It’s probably naïve of me to hope that one day people might care as much about a street kid in Karachi or Kenya as they do about marathon runners in Boston, but I refuse to submit to the unspoken understanding that the life of one is worth more or less than that of another. The whole world is worthy of our attention, not just the areas in which English is spoken, iPads are purchased, and people drink Starbucks.