Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Choice in the presence of horror

On Monday night in California, we know that Boston headline should read (at least) "3 killed". Who knows what more we'll know tomorrow?

We happened to have the 12 noon radio news on in California, so we heard about the bombing in close to real time. We've run a few marathons.  Boston is the ur-marathon for long time runners, even if neither of us ever dreamed of meeting its qualifying standard.  Both of us have lived in Boston. We could imagine the scene too well.

We consoled ourselves there couldn't still have been too many people on the course -- Boston Marathoners don't take 5 hours and more to finish -- this isn't like New York's 12 hour marathon cum folk parade. I was wrong in that assumption; a Wave 3 had started at 10:40, so there were still plenty of runners out there at 3 pm Boston time.

Media and even Presidents have learned to discourage jumping ahead of what we know when horrors occur. I keep remembering the false leads thrown up at the Atlanta Olympics and at Oklahoma City. We're not a restrained society, so I imagine some of us are jumping ... I'm staying away from Twitter.

We've become accustomed to knowing that such atrocities take place in Iraq (42 killed there Monday), in Syria, in Pakistan, in many other countries, frequently, even daily. Our country is not innocent in those places -- but neither were the Boston runners and spectators guilty. And we have no substantive reason to connect this event to those horrors. There may be a reason, but we certainly cannot presume one tonight. That's what I mean by refusing to jump ahead of what we know.

People who commit acts of terrorism want us to respond out of the inner well of hate that most of us have lurking somewhere inside us. If we cleave to our best selves -- to grieving appropriately, uniting with our neighbors, acting judiciously -- we foil them. That won't heal the injured and bring back the dead, but it preserves the lives of the living.  That's a choice we can make when confronted by atrocity.

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