The Boston Marathon was bombed yesterday.
I spoke with my father this morning about it all—yesterday morning he’d emailed me with utter glee to say he had tickets to a Red Sox game for us. Today, he was struggling with the thought, as too many of us are, of how a fun sporting event so quickly slid into horror.
Two of my dearest friends were at the bombing site, with their infant daughter, ten minutes before the bombs went off. Safe, but by the sort of slim margin that will linger for a long time.
I thank whatever I’m calling god today that, at this moment, no one I know was hurt in the blasts. And I’m praying to that same space in my heart for those who were hurt, for all that was so sweet about a crowd gathered for a marathon, and was irrevocably lost in the blast.
News like this fills my chest with rage. My breathing changes, my fists clench and if it would do any good, I’d punch holes in walls and yell my throat ragged. Being enough distant from actual grief, such keening is both inappropriate and inadequate.
But the rage doesn’t have such boundaries. I hate this sort of violence. To live in a world where this happens makes my skin hurt and I wish I could crawl out of it all. How does this happen, and worse, how does this keep happening?
I’ve had the radio on all day, listening to the same few facts get chewed over and over. We know nothing seems to be the only conclusion. We know nothing, except that people ran towards the explosion to help, even before the second bomb went off.
This human decency is supposed to be a balm of some sort. It is, I suppose. But I’m furiously sad that we’re forced to find any good here. Because here, as every time, the good does not outshine the bad, the light does not negate the dark. Are these horrors—all horrors—some how “okay” because people are people and band together and help each other when our legs are blown off, when our brightest days shadowed?
I think not, and I resent the implication of silver-lining finding that makes it so. At worst, I hate the thought that we need tragedy to re-teach us to be kind to each other.
Why can’t we pull together, why can’t we be better humans, why can’t we run headlong into danger and explosion and fear and the unknown before the bombs go off? Such events have authors, such authors have reasons, such reasons could be found, inquired, mitigated. Something. Anything would be better than this locking of doors after the horses escape.
For now, I suppose, Boston is my city. And as such, I suppose that I should feel something more for this bombing that I should for any of the other explosions and mass tragedies that pepper the globe on a daily basis. But I don’t. I’m just plain against all such acts, foreign and domestic. Against all such acts, foreign or domestic in origin.
In this world, in this time, I find that simply sharing a zip code with someone isn’t enough to have their death weigh more heavily on my soul than any other stranger. I see the pictures, and listen to the coverage of explosions and people screaming. The people saying “it was like a war zone.” There are people living every day in war zones—do they deserve less of my heart than the crowds of innocents gathered yesterday in Boston?
I do not mean to disparage either the crimes of yesterday, or the tragic beauty of the human response. I ask only that we try to multiply our understanding, our empathy. Such similar scenes—frightened people running, inexplicable bombs and injury and dead—happen daily. Often, we are responsible. If We Stand United, if We are all Boston and Newtown and New York and Columbine and Oklahoma City and Atlanta and any other of our domestic scenes of terror and violence, should we not also be held to a higher accountability for what else is done in our name? Wars, drone strikes, slaughtered civilians, genocides we dare not dirty our hands with by intervening…all this is done and not done in our name, as Americans.
I say some of this to my father. He says he does not have my width of perspective. It is not a judgment. He is not small-minded and I am not callously large-minded. He called to make sure my friends’ infant was safe—his were the sweet and immediate concerns of a parent, concerns I cannot yet share and may never. But, further, we are of difference generations. I have traveled more widely, bounced around this country and this globe with the ease of my generation. I have seen the lines on maps melt as I cross them. A friend said today, “borders are imaginary, people are real.”
If there is an upside of globalization—and that is a big if—then this is it: those of us who have seen how a hundred different “others” live must learn to live and be in a way that honors those others and lets them live. To me, this means turning the rage against one violent act against all violent acts. This means seeing the seeds of violence before they bear fiery, bloody fruit. This may mean turning our hearts and minds inside out to understand what would drive a person to violence, and this means that we may not like the answer. I believe that violence comes from the darkness lurking inside each of us. What causes the darkness to explode out, to seep into others’ lives so violently is unpleasant territory. But we must know why, we must ask why. Without those questions, we will never know how to stem the flood, how to heal the original hurt, and there will be more violence.
I am thirty-one. I have never been to war. I have never seen a person die. And, yet, I find that I have seen more than enough violence to last me my lifetime.