The story of the week: fourth week of November, 2008

I had meant to post a few times this week, finally composing and sharing my thoughts about some issues that have been in the news recently: gay marriage, piracy, the future of Citi Field amid Citigroup’s bailout. But then I took a few days to rest up and, before Thanksgiving arrived, terrorists turned parts of Mumbai into an urban war zone. My previous thoughts were not worth writing, not if I wasn’t going to write something about what is still happening in India’s largest city. I hope to get to them soon.

And I didn’t know what there was to say about the attack in Mumbai. It’s devastating, I’m sure, for residents of the city. It’s a tragedy for all affected. It’s another painful wound for all of us around the world, as 150 more lives are taken by rogue killers and another city feels the initial shock and subsequent trauma of unexpected and uncontrollable chaos. I’ve said my piece about terrorism as I’ve known it.

But then I read something that caught my attention, for it saddened me in a new way. Here’s the passage, from this New York Times op-ed piece:

“I am ashamed to say this,” Amitabh Bachchan, superstar of a hundred action movies, wrote on his blog. “As the events of the terror attack unfolded in front of me, I did something for the first time and one that I had hoped never ever to be in a situation to do. Before retiring for the night, I pulled out my licensed .32 revolver, loaded it and put it under my pillow.”

My god. From every act of violence, from every case of abuse, from every painful intrusion into the formerly peaceful lives of good citizens, how much collateral damage must there be? And how many ways can it express itself? Here is a man who, after a single event, now falls sleep resting upon a gun. Here is an Indian who, immediately after his trauma, has adopted one of the worst habits of Americans. Here is a man living within a culture that has never been interested in random violence who find himself jumping to an extreme behavior so painfully copied from another culture — one that is obsessed with psychopathic, unpredictable, and unstoppable violence. Unstoppable but by force. Unstoppable but by citizen vigilantes. So goes the American myth. This week it has been exported, no thanks to us.

For all that I saw terrorism do to my city, I did not see people fear the next day at work, the next night in bed. No one started sleeping on guns. There were a thousand other fears, but not this one. And now in Mumbai, there is new fear in each citizen. I don’t know all the ways it will show itself — what I’ve read and reprinted is just one way — but it will hurt. And it hurts me to watch.

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