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Only an Accident” is a very well written New York Times op-ed by a former hose and conveyor belting seller, Bruce MacHart, who describes countless manual labor related accidents he has seen over the years. He then compares the media’s reaction to the Boston Marathon bombing, where four people died and around 200 were injured last Monday, to a “fertilizer plant explosion in a small town called West [that] left more than a dozen dead and around 200 injured” in Texas two days later:

In the first hours after the fertilizer plant explosion, many commenters had wondered about the likelihood of foul play or terrorism. But once it was deemed an industrial accident, the hysterical coverage tapered off. We had nothing to fear from West; we could stop paying attention.

We tend to discount that which is accidental as somehow less tragic, less interesting, less newsworthy than the mayhem of agency. Lives have been “lost” in Texas, but in Boston, by God — lives have been “taken.”

Boston Marathon: Photo from www.bagnewsnotes.com/

Texas fertilizer plant explosion: Photo from Christian Science Monitor

Earlier in the piece, he cryptically describes the sense of the word “lost” in labor-related accidents:

Then there was the grisly story of the debarking drum, which is effectively a giant, spinning, kilnlike pipe into which one puts logs to strip them of their bark. Imagine a machine violent enough to tumble logs clean. Now imagine that machine loaded with a grown man. Who knows how such mistakes are made, but, so the story goes, he was still inside when the machine turned on. He was lost.

I often came back to that word — lost. It implies a certain negligence, a certain culpability, but it also suggests that what is lost might be found again. In those days, I routinely called on manufacturing facilities and mines and sawmills and petrochemical plants, and on company marquees all over town was the following phrase: “___ days since the last L.T.A.” L.T.A. stands for “lost time accident,” meaning an accident that caused an injured employee to miss future “time” at work.

He concludes that the loss of human life, no matter how it was lost, should be valued equally:

But this distinction means nothing to the victims or, I imagine, to their families. In Boston, in West, whether by sinister design or by accident, whether on a television-ready stage or hidden away in a rural factory, when people are hurt, when lives are lost, the essential human cost shouldn’t be lost on the living.

I think this is a beautiful piece that shows the media’s bias towards terror-related violence. But one crucial aspect that I don’t think MacHart touches upon is why viewers can identify with terror-related accidents more than labor ones. Especially in the United States, fewer and fewer people are working in manufacturing jobs. However, everyone can be the victim of a terror attack. I think this plays into the fear, that anyone can be affected.

He highlights the media’s ability to diagnose “the mayhem of agency” and “sinister design” behind terrorism rather than “by accident,” and explains this as the reason behind the media’s increased coverage of the Boston Marathon in comparison to the Texas fertilizer plant explosion. On the other hand, I also believe the media does this because they know that viewers will identify with acts of terror more than accidents.

What do you think?

Rating: Shit is complicated.

Rating the news: “In Fight for Marriage Rights, ‘She’s Our Thurgood Marshall’” – The New York Times

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This story profiles lawyer Mary Bonauto, who “some say is almost single-handedly responsible for the same-sex marriage cases now pending before the Supreme Court.” I like these kinds of stories because it reminds us that social change happens because of individuals who put in a lot of work over a long period of time. This article from the New York Times is a nice, positive, instructive read.

Rating: Stuff that makes me happy.

Craig Dilger for The New York Times

Craig Dilger for The New York Times

 

Rating the News: ‘How would Obama’s speech play in Ramallah?’ – The Jerusalem Post

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How would Obama’s speech play in Ramallah?,” which was written by Jerusalem Post Senior Correspondant Herb Keinon shortly after Obama’s speech yesterday in Jerusalem, captures a lot of my feelings and lingering questions about his visit. So, I’m just going to repost it here

Rating: Sh*t is complicated.

I’d love your thoughts on this piece and Obama’s visit in general.

Photo by Ariel Shasha, a student at Bar Ilan University.

Photo by Ariel Shasha, a student at Bar Ilan University that attended Obama’s speech.

Rating the news: ‘Drinking tea with the man who killed my father’ – Ynet Magazine

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This a moving story about Jo Berrya woman whose British MP father was killed by Pat Magee, a bomber from the IRA. When he was released from jail as part of final peace negotiations with Ireland, she sought to develop a dialogue with the man who killed her father. They have been in a dialogue ever since.

They both visited Israel and told Ynet their story. The piece is moving and thought provoking, and I personally doubt that I would have the fortitude to do something like Ms. Berry did. I wonder how many stories there would be like this if  peace were negotiated in Israel/Palestine?

Rating: Stuff that makes me happy/ Sh*t is complicated

Jo Berry and Pat Magee Photo: Ofer Amram

Jo Berry and Pat Magee. Photo: Ofer Amram, Ynet 

Rating the news: ‘Liberman: IDF should open fire at stone-throwers’ – The Jerusalem Post

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Avigdor Liberman, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s second hand man and Yisrael Beytenu chairman (who is also on trial for corruption), wants to change IDF rules of engagement so that soldiers should open fire at stone throwers rather than use dispersal methods, such as tear gas. My first gut reaction to this article from The Jerusalem Postwas man, this is definitely stuff that makes me mad. It’s totally messed up to shoot Palestinians that are throwing stones. A gun seems like excessive force.

Rating: Stuff that makes me mad/ Sh*t is complicated

Sh*t is also complicated because of the context behind the comment. On Thursday, The Times of Israel reported that, “Six people were injured, one critically, after stones thrown by Palestinians caused a car to collide with a truck near the West Bank settlement of Ariel.” That one critically injured was a 3-year-old. She’s currently in a hospital, fighting for her life.

Additionally, violence in the West Bank has been on the rise. Here’s a good tally of attacks from The Jerusalem Post:

“A total of 139 attacks, including firebombings and the use of improvised explosives, took place in February, compared to 83 in January.
One hundred of February’s attacks took place in the West Bank – 84 of them firebombings – compared to 56 in the previous month.
In the capital, 38 attacks – 35 of them firebombings – were registered by the Shin Bet in February, compared to 27 in January.”

In general, I support a 2-state solution and hope for as little violence as possible. I don’t want soldiers to shoot at Palestinians throwing stones, but I also want stone throwing to recede.

Maybe President Obama can give his thoughts on the subject when he visits Israel this week. Although I doubt he will, considering he’s coming here on a “listening tour.”

What do you suggest?

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Bus damaged by stones on Route 5 near Ariel, March 14 

Photo: Channel 10