How Do You React to Madness?

At 2:50 PM Monday afternoon, two explosions occurred on Boylston Street near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Copley Square.  As of 10:30 AM, as I post this, there have been three confirmed deaths and approximately 176 injured. Some of those injured have been reported to have lost limbs.  One of those killed was an 8-year-old boy and one of the critically injured was a fellow BU student. Initially, third and fourth devices were said to have been found nearby but Governor Deval Patrick has stated otherwise.  A third explosion occurred at JFK library at roughly 5 PM as well, though this has been dismissed as a mechanical fire and any speculation of a connection is just that.  There are no reported injuries from that explosion.  Though Boston PD has not officially arrested any suspects yet, there are reports that one Saudi man being in custody, though he denies involvement.  Regardless of reports, the BPD have stated that no one has been taken into custody.

This post is incredibly hard to wrap my head around.  I’m not even positive what to write about to be perfectly honest.  The Boston Marathon is without a doubt the biggest gathering of people in Boston per year. I should know; I’ve been to a few of them during my time at Boston University.  Not only is the Marathon a gathering of athletes, their friends, and families, it is a gathering of thousands of very drunk students and Bostonians.  It is a day that many Bostonians look forward to like Christmas.  Marathon Monday is an excuse to come together as a city and celebrate not only the 117 year old tradition, but to celebrate a start to spring and the identity of a city so zealously beloved by its people.

I’m lucky enough to be able to say that none of my friends were injured in the explosions, though all were very, and understandably, frightened.  The streets became mayhem as onlookers and participants quickly fled the explosions trying desperately to contact their friends and loved ones.  As you watch one of the many videos, you will see an explosion occur right next to the finish line and as people scatter please note the police, security, and medical professionals running into the fray.  It is on days like these where we remember how incredibly lucky we are to have such brave and well trained men and women working to keep our public interests of safety and health paramount.  It is on days like these that we hold our family and friends tighter and let them know how dearly we love them.  It is on days like these that we all stop and pray to our respective gods or lack thereof a little more piously for a world less marred by this pain and hatred.  It is on days like these that we should and can come together in love and compassion rather than unjustly blame people who were completely uninvolved and perpetuate the hate that all too often comes coupled with immense fear and anguish.

If and when a suspect is named or a perpetrator is identified do not demonize a community they may belonged to.  Skin color and religion do not drive people to do insane things, demented minds do.  If only skin and religion caused violence then the world would only consist of Hitlers, Joseph Konys, Osama bin Ladens, etc.  One of my greatest fears is that of the scared mob.  Hate and pain are so easily set ablaze by false reports and prejudice.

A New York TImes map detailing what happened when and where.

A New York TImes map detailing what happened when and where.

However, what I fear more than anything is that we will forget and move on, just as we have with so many tragedies.  We cannot live in fear and we should be open to forgiving but to forget is to close your eyes.  As a boy who had many of my most formative years in a post-9/11 world that has been riddled with war, mass shootings, and other senseless acts of violence, I cannot help but feel somewhat numb to the pain.  Of course tragedies like today’s still shock us but how soon after do we simply go back to the status quo rather than making meaningful change?  It is not a day for politics and, honestly, I’m not sure what sort of legislation, if any, would help avert situations such as these.  It may hurt but to simply shrug it off does not make for meaningful change.  A generation of Americans inured to senseless acts of violence stands to survive tragedies but not to build positive futures from them.  In fact, I can’t help but think that underneath this calloused surface wells more rage and confusion than we would know how to properly handle.

So what is the answer then?  How do we react?  In post-9/11 America the answer seems to be violence but I can’t help but think of the cliché, “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”  Besides, in such an attack, whom do you go after?  Let’s say we execute the person or persons who committed this atrocity, will their deaths bring back our loved ones?  Will it undo all the pain that has occurred? I can’t help but think it won’t, as a war does not seem to have lessened our number of problems or healed our nation’s 12-year-old scars.

It is times like these that we must look to create bridges rather than burn them.  We must share love and bring people in rather than casting them out due simply to fear and illegitimate rumors.  We have the potential to be the best humanity has to offer.  It is up to us to seize that opportunity rather than throw it aside to quench a violent thirst that seems insatiable.  I do not expect it to be easy, nor do I expect it to be popular.  But now is when justice serves its purpose, nothing more, nothing less.  Now is when we rise above our perhaps-warranted wrath and ascend to becoming a nation that fosters love rather than revenge.  We can be the better people, so why don’t we start here?  As Patton Oswalt, of all people, said, “So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”

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3 responses to “How Do You React to Madness?

  1. Pingback: A Plea for Understanding | Audacity Oven·

  2. When something like this happens, everyone always falls back on their instinct to ensure their own security. Since a group is made of individual people all falling back on this instinct, the group then falls back on its own kind of basic instinct to ensure its own security. When there is a threat, you wish to remove that threat. Makes sense, at first. When its people killing people, acting on the instinct to “remove the threat” almost always sparks the upheaval and chaos of a bloody conflict. In a vain attempt to get the masses more determined and active in “removing the threat” to a zealous degree, propaganda begins. Human beings of the group that is considered as “the threat” are demonized; the truth of what their motives are become garnished, the average citizen’s insecurities are played upon, good and evil are suddenly defined in black and white terms, and the humanity of “the threat” is dismantled by provocative imagery, bit by bit. After the enemy’s humanity is no longer apparent, the crusade to eradicate “the threat” is finally justified, and soldiers are trained and even excited to vanquish the foe. Then a soldier kills another human being for the first time in “glorious combat”. It’s a shock. Assuming the soldier isn’t a psychopath, the killing of the once clearly vile and barbaric enemy haunts the soldier, forever reminding him or her that “the threat” was not the crazed demonspawn that the soldier was supposed to believe they were. “The threat” was just another human being. Whether killing them was necessary or not, the fact remains. Only after the slaughter of other human beings does the soldier understand why he or she was always told that these “things” were so vile that they were less than human. No honest man or woman would bring themselves to murder a human. An honest man or woman would only kill a monster willingly. In order to “get the job done”, people have to be manipulated to at least some degree so they believe they are extinguishing monsters. The scary truth we must all face is that these acts of violence were committed by people. We could take the easy route by labeling them as monsters and hunting them down, but the truth would tear our very souls apart as time goes on: we are murderers now ourselves, murderers of people. Have we not, then, become monsters that pose a threat to others? Is it not better to come to terms with this hard to bear truth now, rather than on the battlefield, surrounded by death and misery, when the violence has escalated to the point of no return? I understand why we react in fear and defensiveness. Tightening security and becoming more discriminate can make it more difficult to be attacked. We feel like we did nothing wrong to provoke such a calamity, and we didn’t. Why should we take more risks than we have to, like allowing anyone of the same culture the same liberties we enjoy, and the same rights to privacy? Why should we allow someone that killed even our children live, even in prison, for wouldn’t this be risking that we’d be seen as weak and invite further attack? What if they escape prison, is it not too much risk to let them live and allow the possibility of escape to exist? To answer my own questions from the previous paragraph, yes, it is a risk to not take measures to protect ourselves from further violence. Putting up walls and turning on the security cameras to watch a certain group of people can work without retaliation for a while, but know that we play a dangerous game of dancing around a threshold of death that is hard to relent upon. We cannot completely demonize antagonizers forever, for we will start to believe that our stereotypes of evil that plague anyone remotely like the suspects are actually true. The chain reaction of killing the other side to protect oneself from getting killed will be sparked, with both opponents cemented in their justifications for murdering other human beings. You would think that after two world wars and almost a third one that could’ve wiped us all out, we all would’ve learned and dropped our petty insecurities in order to find a real answer to preventing further atrocity. You would think that we would’ve realized that our basic instincts concerning violence induced by other humans are going to kill us all. You would think that we would’ve realized that empathy and reason, even when concerning a “monster” (in fact, ESPECIALLY when concerning a monster) will let us comprehend the rhyme to the monster’s reason. You’d think that we would’ve realized that knowing the monster would let us deduce proper action, and keep us from mistaking other people as monsters too. You’d think that we would have realized that thinking is what makes the human so superior in nature. Why abandon reason during a calamity, the time we need it the most? Plus, why do you think I’m ending this with a question?

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