First responders surround the site of the Boston Marathon bombing. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa.)
“Does that have something to do with the guy who sent poison to the president?” the guy who owns the cafe where I write asks about the melodrama unfolding this morning in Boston.
“No, that was just a crazy guy from Mississippi.”
A friend texts, two days ago: “Jesus wtf now explosions in Texas!?”
I write back: “Feels like an accident to me.” (What I thought, shamefully, was: “not political. Just an accident.” Just an accident!)
We live in interesting times, just like the old Chinese curse warns us again. A terrorist attack in Boston, followed by a state-of-the-art witch hunt: a cellphone picture of two Moroccans near the finish line, posted online, soon plastered on the front page of the New York Post, and suddenly lives are turned upside down for fear of vigilante justice. A Saudi national detained at the hospital, suspicious because he was “running” (running after an explosion: how suspicious), ginned up into a claim on Fox News that “he is now going to be deported on national security grounds,” then escalated by professional shrieker Pamela Geller into an obvious cover-up by the Saudi royal family in cahoots with B. Hussein Obama. Ideologues saddle up their hobbyhorses in order to ride; but at that, I am an ideologue, too. I spent much of yesterday lining up my argument for why a white nationalist militia type might want to spray shrapnel into a crowd on Tax Day, that shrapnel of this type is a classic marker of white-supremacist bombcraft, how an FBI obsessed with entrapping Arabs and anarchists ignores the right-wing lunatics in our midst. And, once I hear of the screen grabs of what I hear someone call “regular-looking white guys,” in baseball caps, no less, I get ready to pull the trigger on the argument…
And when Fox News wins in the end, I deflate. Chechens. Muslims! A Fox personality on my screen tells me one of the suspects linked to some site that had something to do with some jihadi prophesy about how the caliphate would unfold, then cautions that this doesn’t mean they’re Al Qaeda for sure…
A calamitous explosion near Waco. Waco! My friend who texted is a libertarian—which sets me to thinking that if even libertarians suspect some latter-day Timothy McVeigh must be responsible, I should be speculating that, too… And then, no: not terrorism. Just austerity, deregulation, a laggard Occupational Safety and Health Administration. As Lee Fang noted in this space yesterday, OSHA “has only inspected five fertilizer plants in the entire state of Texas—and the plant in West, Texas, was not one of them.” This particular facility was last inspected twenty-six years ago. “The US Chemical Safety Board, which came into operation in 1998, is the commission tasked with investigating safety violations. Like similar boards, the Chemical Safety Board has virtually no resources: only a $10 million budget to cover every violation in the country.” I recast my dudgeon: the outsized devastation in West, Texas—see the hospital, nursing home and middle school within steps of the factory on the map at the bottom of this article—owes to the absurdities of right-wing hegemony, too: what ever happened to zoning?