After 9/11, we were told how brave New Yorkers were, how resilient this city was, how its people would come together in the face of adversity, how it had seen worse and endured and would do the same again. After 7/7 we were told that Londoners, who lived in a city that had survived the Blitz and fought off Nazi attacks, would live to fight another day, that the day after the attack, stoic Londoners who could take a punch and roll with it were already back at work determined to move on, keeping upper lips stiff, and their chins up. Now, after 4/15 we are told Boston was the wrong city to mess with, that it and its residents will take this and move on, that the terrorists will find no victory here, that the city is strong and will endure.
I trust I sound repetitive above. For there is a pattern in there. (One whose details could be unpacked in even greater detail had I been more diligent in tracking down the original sources of commentary that I refer to.) Its outlines are clear: some places, some locales, which bear the brunt of acts of ‘terror’ and ‘dastardly attacks’ committed by ‘terrorists’ and ‘cowards’ are sites for the display of resilience and courage and fortitude. They serve as showcases for local character on occasions on which the accumulated history of resistance that they have built up can be unfurled in the face of the offender.
These tributes, well-meant and sincere and full of compassion for those whose lives have been afflicted by the scourge of the anonymously violent, give me occasion for pause. I wonder if other sites, other venues for the display of terror, are inhabited by people who show similar fortitude and courage. I wonder whether Baghdad–where improvised explosive devices like those used in London and Boston are exceedingly common, as are the tangled masses of flesh and blood and torn limb that are their inevitable result–is populated by the brave or by the cowardly, by the determined or by the milquetoast. I wonder whether its citizens get up in the morning and go to work the day after a bombing; I wonder whether the parents who live there dare to send their kids to school the day after a massacre in their neighborhoods, and if they do, whether they are congratulated for their non-quivering upper lips and their chins held upright. I’m curious about whether the citizens of Gaza recover quickly after an aerial assault causes the loss of life of their loved ones. Do they just flop around, wailing and mourning, unhinged and disconsolate, plotting their next dastardly revenge? I wonder about those who live in Afghan villages, subjected sometimes to the invasive patrol, the droning drone, the unexploded ordnance or mine, or a local warlord’s imprecations. Do they display ‘stubborn resilience’ as well? Or are all these folks–the ones in Baghdad, Gaza, or Afghanistan–just fatalistically resigned to their fates?
Depending on how we view their actions, we might find the people who live in places like these deserve our admiration too.