Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa


Yesterday morning began like most other work days.  I rolled out of bed, got ready for the day, and walked outside to my car.  As I turned the key in the ignition, the radio sprang to life and I heard the tail end of a news story about Boston and suspects, but I didn’t think too much about it at the time.  The rest of my 10 minute commute was filled with advertisements and music.

Once at work, I turned on my computer and chatted with coworkers.  After I’d made a cup of tea and put my lunch in the fridge, I lazily checked my email and Facebook to see what had happened during the day back home.  One friend’s status was, “In between two finals and just heard about the explosions. Hope everyone back home is okay. Thoughts are with Boston.”

Intrigued, I turned to Google News.

Oh god.  Oh god oh god oh god.

Images of blood soaked pavements, descriptions of chaos and amputations – I spent the next hour reading everything I could find.  My coworkers didn’t understand why I was so preoccupied.

“This is the worst attack on U.S. soil since 9/11,” I said.

They were mildly interested, but not exceedingly.

Kind of like my reaction to the Marikana Massacre at the Lonmin Mine that occurred soon after I arrived in South Africa.  Even though I was geographically closer to the violence, it was worlds away from me.  Academically and emotionally, I am concerned about the conflict between poor black miners and a corrupt, violent police force as well as what it represents of South Africa – but I knew it would have little effect on me personally.

The Boston Marathon, on the other hand, feels much closer.  The victims were mostly middle class people whom I could identify with.  I’m a runner too.  I have friends that run marathons.  I used to live beside the Vancouver Marathon route and woke up a couple times to people cheering for their friends and family.

Not only that, but I know I’ll feel the aftermath of the bombings back in North America.  There will be more anti-terrorist rhetoric and tighter security measures.  The United States already drives me insane.  How stupid is it that no one is ever allowed to bring a bottle of water on an American airplane ever again?  But as, Glenn Greenwald argues, “That’s what the US government (aided by the sham “terrorist expert” industry) does in every single one of these cases: exploits the resulting fear to increase its own power and decrease everyone else’s rights, including privacy.”

(Read his excellent commentary on the bombings here:

At the same time, I didn’t hear anything about the earthquake in Asia that was reported to leave hundreds dead until I started scrolling through Google News after I’d read everything current about Boston.  I think the earthquake popped up somewhere between Michael Buble’s praise of Justin Beiber and why the Montreal Canadiens lost their last game.


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