It’s ON, America

The Green Building at MIT
The Green Building at Boston’s MIT. (Photo: Matthew J. Lee / Globe Staff)

Thirty-six hours ago, Americans were reminded of a few things.  Obviously, and most painfully, we were reminded that no amount of security and vigilance can ensure our safety in the age of terror.

You may subscribe to the notion that nothing stops a bad guy with a gun, except a good guy with a gun.  (I do not agree, although that’s a subject for another blog post.)  But how do we stop a bad guy with a bomb?  Or two?  Sometimes we can, but on Monday in Boston we could not.

Today I’ve heard a few frustrated folks lament that an evil few can destroy the happiness and freedom of the many.  I don’t think that’s the lesson here.  Rather, the take-away message should be that there is more good in the world than bad.  As Patton Oswalt (!) so elegantly put it in a Facebook post that has now gone viral:

“We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago…

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.’”

Much of that good has already been well chronicled this week, like the Boston Marathon runners, bystanders and volunteers who rushed toward Monday’s carnage as soon as it happened, rather than away from it.  Acts of courage and selflessness were everywhere, witnessed by helpless citizens of the world who could only tune in via social media and pray.

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By day’s end, Boston-area blood banks were fully stocked and thousands of residents had offered space in their homes to weary, terrified runners with nowhere else to go.

The New York Times suspended its pay meter (the tracking mechanism that prevents non-subscribers from reading more than a few online articles per month for free) to allow everyone access to news.

There were other acts of goodness, such as heretofore unseen restraint among most news outlets and social media users.  We were all urged to corroborate what we heard, before presenting it as fact.  Shocking tweets were challenged with, “What’s your source for that?”.  Many outlandish rumors sputtered and died under the weight of scrutiny.

The New York Post was the most glaring exception, exaggerating the number of casualties and claiming that a suspect was in custody within two hours.  The Twitter community rallied to bring the hammer DOWN on those hacks.

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Even President Obama was careful when addressing the stunned nation.  Some were frustrated that he avoided using the term “terrorism”.  I suppose it’s reassuring to label a heinous act, as a means of trying to understand it, but I was glad that the President chose not to influence the narrative by using loaded words when he lacked facts.

Once we catch whoever did this, feel free to label it however you like.

On a similar note, most Americans took a holiday from bipartisan bickering on Monday.  Let’s hope it’s an extended one.

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As always, sports proved a great distraction and rejuvenator for me.  Sports writers were especially respectful.  Despite the tragedy they had a job to do, but most showed sensitivity.  Hank Schulman, for example, tweeted this before sharing a link to his most recent blog post:

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Teams everywhere celebrated life and courage and community, and they did it with class.  The “United We Stand” banners at Yankee Stadium featuring the Red Sox logo?  Those choked me up almost as much as the Yanks playing Fenway favorite “Sweet Caroline” tonight, as fans laughed and sang along.  The resilient laughter – that’s what got to me.

In a way, sport is a great metaphor for the reaction to yesterday’s insanity.  America is complicated and messy.  Sometimes we behave badly, and fight ferociously amongst ourselves like a bunch of toddlers trapped in a room with only one toy.

At the end of the day, though, we’re a team.  If you attack one of us, you’re going to face the wrath of all of us.

Pity the evil person or persons who messed with my team.  We’re bringing our A game.  We will win, because the good guys always do.

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