Lessons From Colombo

The first time I came to Sri Lanka was more than 5 years ago now. I stayed for about 3 weeks and on the day I left, January 2, 2008 there was a bombing a few miles or less from where I was in Colombo. I found out as we were shopping and the radio at the store reported the incident. Life went on as usual in Colombo, but I was relieved to be leaving before anything might hit even closer to home (or me).

Last night we returned from Madhagama in the South where we were celebrating Avurudu (Sinhala and Tamil New Year) with Tim's grandmother - now 105 years old.  We arrived tired from traveling and pissed off that the rain once again leaked through the roof and our bed was wet.  Even worse the fish in the courtyard pond all mysteriously died while we were away and the whole house smelled of rotting fish. After Tim cleaned up that disaster and I dried up our bed and changed the sheets, we finally crawled into bed with Akka.  Tim set up a U.S. VPN for me so I can watch my favorite shows here. As I picked up the iPad to catch the latest episode of The Following (you'll appreciate the irony that I watch this grotesquely violent show), a newsflash popped up. There had been a bombing.

However, this time the bombing was in Boston. As with September 11th, I didn't fully appreciate what had happened right away. It wasn't until I woke up this morning that it began to sink in.

Bombings happen all the time. Just last week a young U.S. diplomat was killed in Afghanistan. The news coverage of that was tremendous, though the news about the 10 Afghani children also killed in a NATO-led bombing that day was scarce.

Still I find myself more affected by this bombing back home than I did by the one in Colombo, or any of the others I read about on the news for several reasons. First, we feel somewhat immune and protected in the U.S. Despite September 11th, this is not a frequent occurence as it is in other countries. See Sri Lanka's bombing history by the LTTE alone. Secondly, I realized how easily I could have been there in that exact spot. Many of my friends watched the marathon less than half a mile away in Kenmore. Other friends were in that exact spot, but luckily left earlier when their father was tired and ready to go. Four years ago I stood in that exact spot with my sister and cheered on friends. I think what I found most devastating though, was that this bombing was not targeting a country in turmoil... instead it targeted an international celebration.

When you consider the history of Patriot's Day (a local holiday celebrated only by those in Massachusetts and Maine), contemplate momentarily that once upon a time the American Patriots were considered terrorists by the British. They didn't fight according to the "rules of war" going face to face in a planned battle on a battlefield. Instead they hid behind bushes and waged surprise attacks. Now we consider bombings like this acts of terror, against the rules of war. But this is just modern day war. This is the way war has been waged all over the world for decades now. It is a much a part of modern war (and all is fair in war apparently) as drone attacks. Still even in these times where terrorism is an essential weapon of warfare, it seems particularly cruel to have targeted Marathon Monday, an athletic celebration nearly as international as the Olympics. This attack seemed less to target Americans or Patriotism, and more to target happiness in general.

With that in mind, I would like to end on a happy note and wish all of my Sri Lankan friends and family Suba Aluth Avuruddak and all of my American friends and family a Happy Patriots Day. No matter where we are, or what happens to us personally or collectively, for our own sake, we must continue to strive to be happy and to love.  This is something I know is possible as I have seen the people in Sri Lanka find happiness through all kinds of turmoil.

- Ashley, A Boston Family

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