What am I going to do differently after today’s terrorist attack in Boston?
Not a damn thing.
Not that I’m particularly (read: “at all”) brave. I’m pretty much chicken shit. But I am certain about a few things, even in the frenetic, we need new information every nanosecond, gotta stay ahead of the Twitterverse (a Sisyphean task if there ever was one), profit-driven, information-overload environment in which we live:
- Most people, let’s say the vast majority of people, no matter where they live, no matter what god or gods they believe in (or don’t) are good people. Just look at the video of the explosions. Notice how many people ran toward the scene: police, soldiers, race volunteers, spectators, people trying to finish the race. (And having run a few marathons myself, I’m impressed as much by the fact that a runner would have the energy to try and help as by their bravery.) Being a human being is a messy business. We’re not always logical. We react with emotion – anger, fear, jealousy. We can be selfish, greedy, and we often make mistakes. But at the end of the day, most of us want to do good. That thought can go a long way toward making me feel better at a time like this.
- We here in the United States (and even more so in Canada, most of Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan) are still extraordinarily safe. When was the last time anything like this happened in our part of the globe? The London 7/7 attack? And think about this: will there be any safer place in the world next year than the Boston Marathon?
- To take the last thought to its logical conclusion, for all the horror and randomness of this act, it’s extremely rare. We face much more danger from driving or eating fatty foods than terrorist attacks. I am not in the slightest downplaying the pain of those who lost loved ones or are injured, but let’s be honest: at the heart of our reactions to these events is the fear that “this could happen to me or my loved ones.” And the probability of that happening is extremely low. In today’s bombings, 3 people died and over 100 were wounded. If this were an average day in the U.S., 89 people died in car accidents and 85 people died in firearms incidents (homicides, suicides and accidents), not to mention hundreds of other preventable deaths, whether from smoking, eating poorly and/or not exercising. And they were thousands of public gatherings in which no one was hurt, from sporting events to commuters rushing through train stations. In short, we can't let our fears become unreasonable, and we shouldn’t let these events alter our behavior, aside from taking normal precautions.
- 'Finally (and this is the most important thing), the terrorists (whoever they are – Islamic fundamentalists, McVeigh-like domestic terrorists, some random lunatics) want us to act differently, to be fearful, to stop trusting, to lash out, to overreact, to give in to terror. Because that’s the real goal of terrorism: to create terror. (Duh!) The maiming and killing of innocents (an eight-year-old boy for God’s sake!) is horrendous, but it’s secondary to their real goal. For all he was made fun of (and I certainly piled on, even though it was, to quote P.J. O’Rourke, like hunting dairy cattle with high-powered rifle and scope), George W. Bush actually had a point when he said we should go shopping after 9/11. Life has to go on. Otherwise, the terrorists win. (Of course, his and the Dark Lord’s, aka Dick Cheney’s, overreaction and overreach, whether in Iraq, “enhanced interrogation” or the Patriot Act, were the exact kinds of things the terrorists wanted.) So for that reason, if nothing else, I’m going to keep on keeping on. Because nothing says “Fuck you, terrorist” like not letting them affect you.
As a final note, I sometimes get a negative reaction when I write things like this. For example, shortly after the attacks I posted something on Facebook saying we should avoid a rush to judgment and wait until all the facts were in. Several dear friends were upset, one referring to me as a “diplomat.” I totally respect that. I realize I can come across as cold and analytical in a situation in which people want emotion, reaction, feeling.
So let me be very clear: I am PISSED. I want to take the animals who did this and rip them apart, limb from limb, slowly and painfully. They killed a child. They injured people who’ve done nothing wrong. I want the perpetrators to suffer. I want them to know what it feels like to lose a child. I want to take a pipe bomb and stick it up their ass.
But me feeling this way doesn’t help. In fact, it just gives the scumbags a victory. Being angry and vengeful perpetuates the cycle of violence. Justice must be blind and excruciatingly impartial. It can’t countenance violence. It’s extraordinarily difficult to stick to this belief when one is so upset, but consider this: a belief in justice and democracy and free speech and openness is one of the things that separates us from the animals who perpetuate these acts of terror. I’d rather stand there, exposed, afraid, angry, than hide and hope the assholes won’t find me.
So I’m sticking to my schedule. I’m not going to hide. Who’s up for Boston Marathon 2014?