The 100th Anniversary of the Wall Street Bombing

At 12:01 pm on September 16, 1920, a bomb exploded in the financial district of Manhattan in New York City. 30 people died instantly with 8 more deaths to follow. 143 additional people were injured. It was the deadliest terror attack on American soil up to that point.

According to Wikipedia, this crime was never solved, but it is suspected that it was carried out by Italian anarchists. It had to do with postwar social unrest, labor struggles, and anti-capitalist agitation. (Sound familiar?)

The bomb rolled up on a horse drawn carriage, times being what they were. It consisted of 100 pounds of dynamite and 500 pounds of shrapnel. Given that there was a timer, you’d think the terrorist would have had the decency to save the horse, but no. The driver escaped, though. Of course.

The explosion mostly took out young, lower level employees; messengers, clerks and the like. That hardly seems fair. But of course none of this was fair.

It also caused 2 million dollars in property damage, which would be worth nearly 26 million today. It was no accident that this happened at lunch hour at the busiest intersection of Wall Street. You can still see remnants of the damage to this day.

Needless to say, trading on the New York Stock Exchange was suspended immediately. James Saul, aged 17, took a car and spent a good deal of time transporting 30 people to hospital. I bet he turned out to be an amazing person. Unfortunately, that information seems to be lost to history.

So anxious were they to get back to business as usual that they cleaned the area up that night, destroying a lot of evidence. But flyers were found that said, “ Free the political prisoners, or it will be sure death for all of you. American Anarchist Fighters.” It is now assumed that the political prisoners referred to were Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian anarchists who were erroneously arrested (and later electrocuted) for murdering two people.

So there you have it. A bit of history to enjoy while eating your corn flakes this morning. You’re welcome.

Not a good day to be on Wall Street.

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How People Become Radicalized

Nothing makes me feel more bitter and cynical than feeling that I’m being treated unfairly. My mother would say, “Life isn’t fair.” Yeah, ma, I know. But that doesn’t give people a free pass to take advantage of that atmosphere and pile on. You still have the moral, ethical, and often legal obligation to do the right thing. Otherwise we have chaos and anarchy.

Without going into detail, recently I was screwed royally by an organization that pretends to believe in justice and equity. This was an organization that I trusted and relied on, so I’m feeling a little at sea. I don’t know what to do with my anger and frustration. I feel as if I could implode under the sheer weight of my righteous indignation.

And when I get pissed off, I cry. I’ve been crying quite a lot in the past few days. Not that that does me any good.

But this experience has given me a bit of insight. First of all, when counting my blessings, I realize that I have a great many blessings to count. If this organization’s douchebaggery is my biggest problem, then I’m quite fortunate indeed.

But it has given me a tiny taste of what it must be like to become so frustrated by the systems that hold you down that you feel forced to act out. It has made me see how a person becomes an activist, a protester, or, worst case scenario, a terrorist. Not that I’m advocating the latter. I am a pacifist to the very marrow of my being. I’m just saying I now get it. I may not approve, but I get it.

If this is my current level of anger and frustration, I can’t even imagine what it would be if I were trapped in a situation where my country was at threat from outside forces, or I perceived that my religion were under a similar threat, or global economic forces were such that I was watching the people around me starving or losing hope… I can’t imagine that level of fury. And then, if I didn’t have the education to realize that nothing is solved through violence and hate, if I didn’t believe I had options, and the only visible leaders who were proposing any type of change came from the lunatic fringe… what then?

It makes me think of a sign I once saw in an art gallery that said, “If you had behaved nicely, the communists wouldn’t exist.” Perhaps if we stopped being ruled by our own power and greed and worked more on raising others up instead of stepping on them, perhaps if we chose to be the voice of reason rather than the voice of fear and paranoia, we wouldn’t have so much homeland insecurity. Just a thought.

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Thwart a Terrorist — Build a Bridge

As I’ve mentioned before, my most viewed blog entry is the one on Bridge Symbolism. It’s viewed about 25 times a day, by people all over the world. I have no idea why, but it gratifies me. Now more than ever.

Bridges symbolize connection more than anything else. They join places and people together that might otherwise find it difficult to interact. They link us. They allow us to reach out.

In a world where terrorism seems to be on the rise (as we have all seen recently), it is more important than ever to connect. Terrorists are the very opposite of bridges. They want to cause disconnection. They want us to stop interacting and communicating and learning about one another. They do not want us to be linked. In fact, they want to block our paths. They want us to be afraid to go around the next corner or across the next border.

So I implore you to reject all forms of disconnection and isolation. Cast off all forms of hatred. Extend your hand to your neighbor. Cross over. Make someone welcome. Be a bridge.

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[Image credit: careerrocketeer.com]