There by the grace of God

I’m not normally one to talk politics, or to moralise, and I’ve never before used this blog to preach or event to rant. And I don’t think what I’m about to write falls into any of those categories, but there’s something that’s been bugging me today, about myself as much as anything else, and I think it’s worth recording for posterity, so bear with me.

Like everyone else, I was shocked by the terrible events that occurred in Boston yesterday. My timelines on both Twitter and Facebook were full of reaction to the news that  many people had been injured, some fatally, in bomb blasts near the finishing line of the Boston marathon – in fact, it was thanks to those timelines that I first became aware that something had happened. That reaction was a mix of shock, that something like this could have happened, and sympathy for those involved.

Which is as you’d expect.

But there was one tweet that stuck with me more than the others, and it wasn’t expressing shock or sympathy. It had been written by someone I don’t know, and retweeted by someone I might or might not – Twitter’s funny like that, connecting us to all manner of people we’d never otherwise come across.

Here it is:

Interesting, non? But still not enough for me to pick up my keyboard.

And then today, a major earthquake struck on the Iran/Pakistan border, the strongest in the area in 40 years. It was strong enough to be felt 860km away in Abu Dhabi, meaning there’s a good chance my father-in-law, currently working in Oman, would have felt something too.

At the time of writing, around 45 people are reported as having died, but the final death-toll may be many more. Not to mention the damage to homes and infrastructure that will affect the hundreds of thousands living there for days, weeks, months or even years to come.

And yet other than tweets from news agencies, I’ve seen no reaction in my timelines. None whatsoever. Interesting, non?

Maybe it’s because we can more easily relate to Boston than Baghdad. Maybe it’s the shock factor – victims of faraway bombings and natural disasters are beamed into our homes on a regular basis, and maybe we’ve become so de-sensitised to them that we barely notice any more. Whereas an incident somewhere more familiar creates a feeling of “it could have been me”. That’s certainly how I felt last night, as both a runner and a two time visitor to Boston.

And that’s what bothers me, I guess. That like everyone else, I’ve reacted far more to death and injury in Boston than to much bigger events in other parts of the world. It might be normal, but it doesn’t feel “right” – all are terrible events, but shouldn’t the response be proportionate to how many are involved rather than who or where?

After all, regardless of whether it’s bombs in Boston or Baghdad, or an earthquake in Iraq, all of those involved are people, real people with friends and families and houses and lives. And it could just as easily be us who’s involved.

There by the grace of God…

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!