By Rich Brauer
I was born in Boston, and spent the vast majority of my first 32 years there, before moving to Pretoria/Tshwane in 2007. With the recent bombings at the marathon, I wanted to give readers a bit of context on what has happened.
The Boston Marathon occurs on the third Monday in April, which is always a holiday, Patriots’ Day. Patriots Day’ is not a national holiday in the US, it’s strictly a local New England affair. More to the point, it’s only in Massachusetts and Maine (which, until 1820, was part of Massachusetts). It commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord, the very first battles in the American Revolution against British rule in 1775. If you’ve ever heard of “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World”, that’s where it happened. It’s a sort of rite of passage for students to trek out to those towns, about 20 miles from the city, at least once, to witness the re-enactment.
April 15 also happens to be the date on which all Americans are required to file their federal income tax returns. On a somewhat ironic note, because Patriots’ Day is a holiday, when it falls on April 15, taxpayers in Massachusetts and Maine have until the next day to file. That irony will become clear later.
April 19 represents the 18th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on American soil, barring the September 11 attacks. It was on that date in 1995 that Timothy McVeigh and his accomplices detonated a truck bomb in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. McVeigh was a right-wing extremist who believed that the US government had become tyrannical. At home, mind you, not overseas.
April 20, is, of course, Adolf Hitler’s birthday. Many extreme right-wing groups in the US have, at the very least, links and ideological ties with racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nation etc. Many of these groups have seen a growth in membership since the election of Barack Obama.
Many of the right-wing extremists in the US believe that the federal government is, essentially, illegitimate. One movement, known as the Sovereign Citizens, essentially holds that no government has the right to tax them, or hold them to anything more than traditional “common law”.
In fairness, these people are well outside of the mainstream in America. The vast majority of the American people are like the people you may have seen in the images that came out of the bombings in Boston: people who ran towards the bombs in order to help others without regard to their personal safety.
Of course you’ve noticed that I’m writing as if it were right-wing extremists who are responsible. And I cannot honestly state that that is true. But that is my suspicion, and, if I may, what the smart money will be betting on. I may be wrong. But I’d be surprised.
As I write, my heart is bleeding, desperately, for my home town. I watch the images, and I know every brick of every building they’re covering. Marathon Monday is a day of great joy in Boston. Something that people look forward to, each and every year. Bostonians braai, laugh, and cheer. And the runners enjoy it, because the passion of the day is there for everyone involved.
And now it’s forever marred. There will always be a moment of silence. And the innocent celebration of sport and community will never be the same.
Rich Brauer scribbles from Pretoria.