As a Bostonian living abroad, I felt alternately detached and devastated as I watched coverage of the marathon bombing and ensuing manhunt.
The last week served as a reminder of Bosnia’s particularly dark brand of humor. To be sure, friends and colleagues here were kind and considerate, asking if everyone I know is OK (they are.) But some also wasted no time joking about the situation. The day of, one said, “Who would want to bomb a marathon? Must have been a smoker.”
I’m not one to get prickly about a joke I can’t appreciate, and in fact I respect the instinct to use humor to cope with tragedy, but it did strike me how very badly that would go over in the States right now.
I’m not sure how soon it was after the Bosnian war (‘92-‘95) that survivors started joking about it, but they certainly do now. Soon after the Olympics, one co-worker told me, “You know, we had a few winners in the paralympics, but of course the Serbs take all the credit for our athletes.” (The reference being to the Serb military’s wartime bombings of BiH, which created all of those paraplegic competitors.)
Even in the famous Bosnian movie No Man’s Land, set during the war, this humor appears. In one scene, two soldiers fighting on the front line read a newspaper during a lull in the action. “What a mess in Rwanda,” one says, shaking his head with concern, as in his own country mines explode in the distance.