Compassion and proximity

The Boston Marathon Bombing, or whatever name history will eventually give it, happened just a few hours ago.

I know and feel that it is a tragedy. I also know and feel, like a friend pointed out on social media, that people around the world routinely experience similar anguish in the name of the same security we felt was violated today.

He was, and I now am, speaking of our country’s policy of drone warfare. Yes, I understand that this policy’s intention is to increase our security.

But what difference does our rationale make to the innocents wounded and ended, or their families? Is that anguish anything less than what our fellow citizens today have experienced? A good case could be made that the fear experienced by those living in the regions where targeting often occurs is markedly worse.

I say this not because I believe the experience of the Boston bombing victims is not worthy of lament by comparison.

And I’m saying all this as a matter of self-introspection more than as a questioning of everyone else.

Today’s bombings made me emotional. And by that euphemism, I mean I got choked up and my eyes did this watery, on-the-verge-of-tears thing they sometimes do when I experience empathy.

I could pawn this supposedly emasculating behavior off on a heightened sense of concern because my girlfriend attends school in Boston, or the fact that I am poised to move to the area late next month, but the truth is I’m something of an empathetic Olympian.

Despite my bleeding, Herculean heart, I have not experienced this level empathy about drone victims, even though reason seems to dictate to me that I would have more justification in doing so.

As much as I do care about the innocent victims of drone strikes, there is some relatable quality possessed by the victims in Boston.

It brings to mind a quote by Mark Zuckerberg, though the quote isn’t 100 percent equivocal to the scenario: “A squirrel dying In your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.”

Is it proximity? I think so, but not necessarily all geographical. I’m thinking culturally. No matter how much I’d prefer to be above it, it makes sense that I would find more in common with fellow Americans than a group of people whom I may understand, but could never know.

This realization is disheartening in two ways. Firstly, it undermines my own self-perception of objective humanitarian interest.

Secondly, this new self-perception makes whatever level of humanitarian interest I have for these people seem like a cause even more lost when promoting it to those whom are already generally unconcerned with this results of our foreign policy.