I got an email this morning from Beau Beausoleil, the poet who put together the Al Mutanabbi Street artists’ book project of which I am part. I don’t think he’d mind me putting it here:
Dear Al-Mutanabbi Street Project Members,
It is impossible to not make connections between the tragic bombing in Boston and the bombing of al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad. Thirty dead on al-Mutanabbi Street and more than 100 wounded, 3 dead on Boylston Street and more than 100 wounded. Both areas are where people felt “safe” in shared community spaces. Both communities bewildered by the motives of the bombers.
I have heard people say, more than once, on public radio and tv that this kind of bombing is something that “one might expect in Baghdad but not in Boston.” That line alone carries a tremendous amount of weight and misunderstanding. Why is random violence and carnage something that we have come to “expect” in Baghdad?
Until this unhinged person is caught it will a difficult time for Arab Americans, including many that this project has made close friendships with. It is important that we reaffirm our connection to them, and the Arab American community at large, as well as the people of Iraq.
The unexpected violence, the death and wounding of Iraqis goes on daily, and it is not something that Iraqis “expect” or deserve any more than the runners and spectators at the Boston Marathon.
In our own grief for those who died and were grievously wounded in Boston, we must maintain what holds the framework of this project together, part of which is the idea of shared cultural spaces. We share these spaces together no matter how far they are physically apart.
I am sure that this bombing in Boston will cause some people to turn and view our project with renewed suspicion. I would urge you to be steadfast in your defense of this project and the community it has created both in and out of this country.
This country continues to see itself as apart from the rest of the world.
This project will continue to see the commonality between ourselves and other cultural communities around the world.
All my best,
I think he’s right: in the face of incomprehensible actions, all you can do is hold tight to what you have in common with other people: shared spaces, reading, poetry and sometimes beauty in the middle of ugly things. You can get to the project website here.