America’s Bad Week

By Erin Drushel
Erin Drushel
Erin Drushel

Last week began with the Boston Marathon bombings where three people were killed and more than 170 injured. That was followed by the intense pursuit of the alleged perpetrators, which left two more dead, including one of the suspects. While this was ongoing, poison-laced letters were intercepted en route to President Obama, a Congressman, and a judge. And then there was the life-shattering explosion of a fertilizer plant in Texas which left at least fourteen dead and a community devastated.

Death, threats, and mayhem: separate events, but all linked by a shared pain. Simply put, it was a rough week…

Terrorism in Boston

As a Canadian now living in the U.S., my heart broke with the news of the Boston bombings…but no less than it did on 9/11. Canadians share America’s pain. We not only share it because we are neighbours and friends but because we are human. These acts against humanity hurt us all.

It may be the case that the worst is over, but now that one of the suspects, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is in custody, it gets tougher. The tough part lies within the realities of the law. The crime was heinous and still unexplained, but no matter what our personal feelings are, if a conviction is sought I am concerned with how this case is being treated.

The suspect is a naturalized American citizen who is entitled to the same rights as all other Americans. Among these are the Miranda rights, which include the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. In this case, the government will apparently invoke a “public safety exception” where the reading of the Miranda rights will be delayed as officials question the suspect in an attempt to determine if there are co-conspirators or other unexploded bombs that put public safety at risk.

I hope this approach doesn’t bite America in the backside. Throughout the search for the suspects, the FBI was on television assuring everyone that – to the best of their knowledge – there was no further threat. Couple that with not reading the Miranda rights…I’m not a lawyer, but this has me concerned.

There may be other information that Homeland Security hasn’t shared that leads them to believe there is something more going on, lending greater legitimacy to this course of action. But an argument could be made that this whole process should follow the letter of the law. Take the moral high ground and explicitly make the statement that this is a country of laws that will be followed. If a minor technicality lets any horrific crime pass unpunished it will be a grave disservice to the victims.

Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) are advocating for no criminal trial. We all desperately want justice to be served. And although I understand the sentiment, justice won’t be served through hypocrisy. Hypocrisy invites animosity, which breeds hatred. And from that, we see more violence. You cannot act morally superior when it suits you. You are either just and believe in the law, or you don’t. Apply it equally or all citizens will suffer.

However, no matter what the outcome, we have been jolted out of our complacency. Every city is on high alert and every backpack, package or bag left behind is suspect. Vigilance is once again a way of life.

Texas Explosion

Though later in the sequence of events from last week, the explosion of the West Fertilizer plant in Texas brought with it a terror of its own, leaving at least fourteen dead and a community devastated. Due to the then unfolding events in Boston, this tragic event painfully reminded us of another act of terrorism where the same substance was used as a weapon in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. One of the most devastating acts of terrorism in the United States pre-9/11.

As with everything else last week, this should not have happened. The West Fertilizer plant – cited as a “pillar of the community – apparently did not inform authorities about the potentially explosive fertilizer they were storing. Not just that, but 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate allowed.

“It seems this manufacturer was willfully off the grid. This facility was known to have chemicals well above the threshold amount to be regulated under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Act (CFATS), yet we understand that DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up.” – Rep. Bennie Thompson, (D-MS), House Committee on Homeland Security. (Reuters)

This appears to be a reckless disregard of the law. And the consequence of human life wiped out is too high of a price.

Poisoned Delivery

And finally, last week three letters were intercepted that tested positive for the lethal toxin ricin. These letters were on their way to President Obama, Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), and Sadie Holland, a Mississippi Justice Court judge. A suspect has been charged.

What disturbed me most about this were some of the public comments on various news articles. Some individuals seemed pleased that a poisoned letter was sent to the President of their country…

In the wake of the Boston bombings where a nation should be coming together in support of everyone, there are people wishing someone dead…? This is utterly appalling, anti-American and reprehensible coming from a so-called Christian-nation. Yes, it is just a few trolls; but this type of vitriolic commentary belies a sickness, which enables hatred and ultimately can aid terrorism.

Though it is true that tragedy and fear bring out the best in most people, it sadly can sometimes bring out the worst.

Doing Our Part, Together

It’s difficult to confront a week like last week. It makes you question everything and ultimately, simply ask “why?”

The day after the Boston bombings, my husband was teaching his class at university and he wanted to help his students deal with the previous day’s events. He told them there are a lot of bad things happening in the world; and they seem so big and far away that they make you feel helpless…if you can’t do the big things to help, do the little things to make your own space in the world better. Even if you simply pick up a gum wrapper today, every effort counts.

It may feel simple and even unimportant considering all that’s gone on, but no matter how small the change; make it. And by our actions, the world can become a better place because we cared enough to make it better.

– Erin Drushel

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