Bad news vs. even worse news
This morning when I went to Yahoo to check my email, I saw a headline about a blast in Nigeria that had killed two hundred people.
The original headline (it's been slightly changed now) didn't make the accidental nature of the explosion at all clear. So my first thought, of course, was terrorism.
But when I read the first few paragraphs it became apparent that that first thought of mine was wrong. Although the cause of the blast is still not exactly certain, this was the actual situation:
The villagers had been collecting the gushing fuel outside the coastal village of Ilado, about 30 miles east of the main Nigerian city of Lagos, when the fuel ignited, police and rescue workers said.
The dead are just as dead. But it appears to be a tragedy rather than a crime or an act of war.
My point? Ever since 9/11, when I hear about something like this, my first assumption is terrorism. It's now the default position--whereas, prior to 9/11, the reverse was true.
It's certainly not that terrorist attacks weren't commonplace before, but it was easier to relegate them to the background. That shouldn't have been the case--we know that now--but for so many of us, that's the way it was.
Perhaps it's just the way the human mind and heart tends to work. We don't like to face the reality of the threat until it's made unequivocal. We don't want to have to peer too closely into the heart of darkness. And too often we don't want to have to do something about it until it's close to being too late.
In this case and many others, I'm relieved to be incorrect. My sorrow remains at the loss of life. But there are degrees of terribleness in human events, and causes do matter.