There are times when I am rendered speechless from events that are so hard to comprehend that I cannot process my feelings. Many people feel the same today. Grief, fear, and anger can collide in a maelstrom of emotions that leave us confused.
Oklahoma City…9/11…Columbine…Virginia Tech…Colorado…Newtown…Boston…
There are many others and I don’t want to minimize the horror of any of them by not listing them here, but these are the ones that seem to have redefined our collective concept of tragedy. For me, personally, the murder of two little girls from Evansdale also set a new low for what sick human beings are capable of doing.
My first reaction upon hearing the news out of Boston was disbelief. “No way!” I intoned to my co-worker, Mark, hoping that he might clarify that it was an exaggerated story and just a misunderstood prank with firecrackers. No such thing.
“You might not want to see the pictures coming over the internet,” he continued, “It’s like something you’d see in the movies.”
I didn’t look at the pictures, but I wanted to hear the stories coming out of Boston and so I went online. There were stories about how little anyone knew so far, stories with speculations, stories about suffering and stories of heroism. Human beings are capable of such greatness and pride filled my body at the sight of a man carrying a woman to safety, a doctor racing from the Marathon to the hospital and of firefighters and police officers running toward the crime to protect any and all that lay in the path of destruction.
This morning, I, like most of you, I’m sure, was consumed by any news coming out of Boston.
“Are there any clues?”
“Who did this?”
And then…I saw a story on MSN about an 8 year old boy who was there to cheer on his father, along with his mother and 6 year old sister. I was afraid to read on. “Oh, please God, don’t let this be bad…please say that he was a witness and not a victim…”
I felt very much like I did when I heard the news coming out of Newtown, Connecticut last December; overwhelming grief. I have young boys, one of them is 8 years old and I had just dropped him off at school after a weekend where he clung to me as little boys who adore their father will do now and again. I cannot hold back the tears. I cannot think of anything but the pain and suffering those families are going through at this very moment. And I cannot comprehend how children keep becoming casualties of epidemic sickness.
I become a living contradiction as I am enraged at the rage that creates such madness.
Comedian Patton Oswald had a Tweet that went viral that gave me a measure of solace in this moment: I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, “Well, I’ve had it with humanity.” But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.
But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.
But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
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.”
Thank you, Patton, for your wisdom. At least for the time being you have tempered my anger and given me hope. I will come back to these words when I feel the pull of rage and confusion, and I will allow them to uplift my spirits once again.
I hope and pray that others will do the same.