The Boston Marathon’s tragic message

| April 26, 2013

By James Breedlove

Editor’s note: Just days after the April 15 bombing attack on the Boston Marathon which killed three people and injured nearly 200 others—many of them severely—police killed alleged bomber and Chechnyan national Tamerlan Tsarnaev during a shootout in Watertown, Mass. During the April 19 early morning shootout, his brother and alleged accomplice Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was wounded but managed to escaped authorities until later that evening when he was found hiding in a boat in someone’s yard and taken into custody. Prior to the death of one brother and the capture of the other, the two killed an MIT police officer in an ambush and critically wounded a MBTA police officer during the shootout with authorities.

At presstime, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was still hospitalized but had formally been charged with a number of crimes that could lead to the death penalty.

Reports also have surfaced saying that Tamerlan, the older brother, had begun to embrace a radical brand of Islam after traveling to Russia and that he might have influenced his younger brother to help in a plot to set off the bombs at the Boston Marathon.


The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon. It started in 1897 with 18 runners. This year, it is estimated that 27,000 registrants representing 96 countries participated.

Some 500,000 spectators lined the 26.2 mile route from Hopkinton, a small town down the Massachusetts Turnpike west of Boston, along a tortuous course that runs through the cities of Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton Brookline and ending at Copley Square in Boston.

Normally, the last few blocks on Boylston Street leading to the finish line are packed with cheering spectators encouraging the worn, weary, sweating, straining and exhausted runners to complete the race.

Today, the commemoration and joy of Patriot’s Day was turned into a horrific tragedy. At the four hour, nine minute and 43 second point of the race a bomb exploded on the north side of Boylston Street a few feet before the finish line. For a few seconds people were caught in a freeze frame trying to grasp and make sense of what had happened; some thinking this was a celebratory cannon blast.

When the second blast occurred, reality set in as dense plumes of smoke flowed into the street and violently injured spectators lay piled on top of one another behind the temporary barricades. Blood began to stain the pavement and the cameras set up to memorialize the marathon captured a vivid view of the chaos, carnage and confusion as emergency crews, police, National Guardsmen and spectators began to rush to aid the victims. Initial reports indicate that three people were killed and approximately 144 injured.

Speculation ran rampant whether this was a terrorist attack, domestic or foreign. The initial images were certainly reminiscent of a mini 911. Also memories of the Oklahoma City Bombing (April 19, 1995), Waco (April 19, 1993), the Columbine School Shooting (April 20, 1999), and the Virginia Tech massacre (April 16, 2007) were rekindled.

President Obama, after being briefed by his FBI, National Security, and Intelligence advisors said, “We still do not know who did this or why, and people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts.” He was careful not to use the word “terrorism” but stated that he had directed the “full resources of the federal government” to help protect the people of Boston and vowed that those responsible will “feel the full weight of justice.”

It certainly appears, however, like someone or some organization is trying to make a strong statement about something. If this bombing is a statement what is it and whose statement is it? While the pendulum of blame is emotionally tilted toward an international perpetrator, we should not discount that it could be the misdirected cries of disenchanted citizenry who have seen their hopes and dreams dashed over the past few years.

Studies have shown that most of the income inequality in America has been between the middle class and top earners; with the disparity becoming more extreme the higher one ranks on the income distribution chain. Universal opportunity seems to be under assault for working class people no matter the race, age, gender, sexual orientation or country of origin.

Bill Moyer in a recent essay stated that even before the Great Economic Collapse of 2008 destroyed the value of their homes, robbed their pensions, and took their jobs, American families were slipping behind, and are worse off now than they were 30 years ago. While workers actually increased their productivity they did not share proportionately in the rewards of their labor. Those rewards went to the wealthy.

Since 1980 the incomes of the wealthy have doubled while those in the middle and at the bottom have remained flat.

In this richest of countries, more than 40 million people are living in poverty.

Half of America’s children will use food stamps to eat.

Some 30 million workers are unemployed or under-employed, and for those still working, the median wage today is nominally slightly above the poverty level, which is why so many people are working two jobs trying to make ends meet.

Meanwhile, in the 1950s, CEOs of major American companies took home took home about 25 times the wages of the typical worker. By 2007, executives at the largest American companies received about 350 times the pay of the average employee.

Many American families are just a few meals and a paycheck away from the despair of begging an employer, a bank, a credit card company, or the government for help. In short, they are at the mercy of the powerful ruling class whose policy is to keep the masses on edge and under their paternal control.

A recent Pew poll indicated that only 28 percent of Americans had a favorable view of government, the lowest rating ever. They are more inclined to believe entertainment stars than U.S. politicians or business leaders. They also realize that lies are endemic to modern society and there are few consequences for the most devastating systemic failures perpetrated by their leaders.

Pension theft, election fraud, homeland defense failures, economic meltdowns, and leading the nation to war under false pretenses are not punishable offenses. Politicians, military personnel, corporate executives are beyond reproach for the negligence leading to some of the most disastrous events in American history. Like the French aristocracy America’s leaders appear to be saying to the masses, “Let them eat cake.”

It is not too far-fetched to postulate that what the richest and most powerful want for their families is what most American citizens want also: a home, steady work, enough money for a comfortable life and secure old age, the means to cope with illness and other misfortunes, and the happiness of living freely as citizens without fear.

A society whose economic system cannot make these opportunities widely available is in deep trouble and there are potential repercussions when the dreams of its people are mocked and denied.

Perhaps this is the message of the Boston Marathon Bombing.

James W. Breedlove is a former president of the Fort Wayne Branch of the NAACP. Comments or opinions may be sent to him at


This article originally appeared in our April 24, 2013 issue.


Category: Opinion

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Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne's oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.

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