Sitting in the domestic departure lounge at Jomo Kenyatta at 10:30 am on a rainy Wednesday morning. A table full of Kenyans of African and Indian descent are loudly debating the merits of Ghandi and Mandela while two young Europeans in shorts share a morning beer glued to their individual iphones. The windows are smudgy, the plastic tables are small, and the lady at the snack counter gave me THREE packets of sugar to put in my coffee. I can see the control tower and palm trees in the misting cloudy greyness outside. A free wireless signal tempts me to get on the molasses-slow internet. Africa.
And an hour to spare threatens enough space for churning thoughts to clamor for attention, which allows some Dave Wilcox song lyrics to surface:
"There will always be a crazy,
With an army or a knife
To wake you from your daydream,
Put the Fear back in your life . . . "
Two bombs in Boston, hard to ignore as an American. We read the news, watched President Obama give an excellent speech, skimmed the flood of analysis, felt the angst. Pressure cookers with ball bearings and nails. A mentally ill attention seeker? Someone who is angry? After 911, the immediate suspects are "other", foreign, but if we define a terrorist act as one designed to kill random innocent civilians to inspire terror, well, almost all other incidents on American soil including bombs and school shootings are the work of over-armed under-diagnosed suffering deluded individuals.
I am sitting in a city that has had dozens of bombings (Nairobi) headed to one that's had dozens more (Mombasa). Which perhaps gives one a bit of a different perspective. So here are a few thoughts:
1. Terrorrist acts are levelers. When someone explodes a bomb in your building, you're no more safe in Boston than in Mogadishu if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time. Evil does not have boundaries. All cultures have people who are bent by disease or ideology, who are deceived, who are desperate.
2. Goodness does not have boundaries, either. It was inspiring to hear President Obama describe the runners running on to give blood at hospitals. I watched young men in ABU's (camo) just like Caleb's pull down the barriers to gain access to the injured. Bostonians reacted with grace and mercy, showing that on the whole terrorism fails to cow the human spirit and instead draws out the best.
HOWEVER, it does make a difference whether you are in Boston or Mogadishu after the bomb explodes.
3. My news was flooded with Boston stories on Monday. But the same day, in the hospital, caring for a Somali patient, I heard that 9 suicide bombers had strode into the High Court in Mogadishu the day before and killed 29 people, while a simultaneous car bomb took the lives of five including Turkish aid workers and innocent bystanders. This in spite of months of security and progress in Somalia. This is a huge blow to a struggling country. But I had to search hard to find news stories covering this tragedy. How much press has this garnered? Is it a matter of fatigue that we can not muster enough outrage to mourn Afhagnis and Pakistanis killed by bombs week after week, year after year?
4. In Boston, 170 injuries as of a few hours ago had only resulted in 3 deaths. In Mogadishu or Nairobi, the patients with severed limbs and blunt trauma would not likely survive. Here is a quote from an early news story that sort of slapped me in the face, reality-wise:
At least 21 of the injured were taken to Beth Israel Deaconess, where about 100 additional physicians, nurses, and other personnel descended on emergency rooms to help out the 25 or so typically there during a Monday afternoon.
The physician to patient ratio was more than 1:1; and THEN THE REINFORCEMENTS CAME for a 5:1 or more ratio. Wow. When a mass casualty rolls into Kijabe, it's just another day on the roads here, the one or two physicians on duty multiply to 5 or maybe ten. We're a long way from Boston.
And so as I wait for my plane, in transit, I am reminded more strongly than ever of the real message behind bombs and sadness. This world is not quite home. Not quite what it should be. Off balance. Broken. And so am I. But the Dave Wilcox song does not end with the knife-wielding crazy.
"It is love that set the stage here
Though it looks like we're alone.
In this season set in sorrow, like the night is here to stay . . .
In this darkness love will find a way."