I awoke this morning with a resplendent vigor. A symphony of ideas, dreams, and hopes orchestrated by unyielding optimism. More importantly, this vigor, it has a sense of immediacy –that sort of invigorating urgency hinted at, but ultimately unfilled by your first sip of morning coffee. Carpe diem bubbly, bottled fresh in New England. Coursing through my veins, it ignited individual blood cells, one by one, with an enticingly foreign fury. It’s been creeping up from within my bowels for quite some time, held back by a pesky paralyzing cork in the recesses of my mind. At last, that cork has succumbed to sabrage (the bad ass art of guys who pop open champagne bottles with swords), and I am unleashed.
You see, I am a Bostonian. I didn’t know that until very recently. Not truly. I’m a suburban southern transplant who’s never really felt any sense of community – other than the friend circles I’ve stumbled into over the years. But the aftermath of those two blasts on Boylston—only two blocks from my girlfriend’s apartment—has, oddly enough, infused me a healthy dose of idealistic passion. You know the kind that used to be associated with being an American.
I’m going to confess something that you may not digest well initially. I haven’t been proud to be an American in quite some time. Eleven years, seven months, and some odd days to be precise. The tragedies of that day sent the country into a state of fear-based paralysis/blissful ignorance. At least to me. I wasn’t there. I was safe and sound over a thousand miles away transfixed by the flicking glow of incessant sensationalist media coverage. In response to very real, visceral tragedy, America lost itself in its own machinations. But this paragraph is neither here nor there. It only acts to flesh out my base state going into the events of Patriots’ Day in the Commonwealth.
I’m also not going to indulge stray thoughts about conspiracies, militarism, police states, etc. Such statements are distasteful, offensive, and disrespectful to the character of Greater Bostonians. Is it disturbing to see policemen walking the streets of Boston with automatic weapons? Yes. Of course it is. Have I entertained the thought that it was overkill? Sure. I’m not naïve or stupid. And I sure as hell am a skeptic. But I’m speaking now to praise the spirit of the people.
If the events in New York a little over a decade ago quashed my rampant idealism, then the character of Bostonians in the face of these crises has, at least temporarily, lifted my defeated malaise and propelled me into a sort of tempered enthusiasm. I’m very enthusiastic about humanity right now. People reacted immediately with compassion. Not paralysis or fear, but instead the townsfolk opened their homes and their hearts. They bonded together not to attack or discriminate, but to help each other. People who just ran a marathon ran several more miles to donate blood and help those in need. Without hesitation. People in harm’s way put themselves further in danger for the purpose of aiding complete strangers.
I’m not entirely sure how the ensuing manhunt was portrayed to those outside, but from within it was not an exercise in fear-mongering, but one of conviction; the conviction to catch a criminal who would and did hurt innocents. And you know what, they caught him. Inexplicably everyone bonded together –policeman, salesman, and janitorial man—to apprehend fear before it had the chance to take hold.
The most curious thing happened afterwards too. Some people felt sympathy and compassion for Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. What could possibly drive two young men to do this? What was our part in that? It takes courage to feel sympathy for those who kill innocents. Anger alone – though certainly justified– is the easy way out.
After the voluntary lockdown of the cities and towns including and immediately surrounding Boston proper, people didn’t hesitantly sneak out the door. They went out to the bar, to Dunkin’ Donuts, to the Common. They laughed together. They embraced each other, and had the gall to not only return to business-as-usual, but to be even more friendly and appreciative of one another. The city’s public space was overflowing with people living. It was almost as if the Sox had won the pennant after being three games down.
In less than your average work week, Bostonians were put through the full gamut of human emotion. And we didn’t falter. Or flinch. We didn’t lose ourselves to crippling fear, nor did we allow our pettiness to lash out in irrational anger. We stood together. We endured and reevaluated We determined that the most important part of living is that stranger sitting beside you. The rest is bullshit.
So please excuse me while I vigorously seize this bubbly. I’ve learned that tragedy is inevitable –whether it be public or personal. Life itself is essentially tragedy. The ancient Greeks knew this. They also knew a thing or two about comedy. Mourn the loss of innocence. For the love of God, mourn those needlessly killed by those who are lost. But don’t call it terror. Don’t let anger get the best of you. And show compassion not only for your neighbor, but for everyone. We’re all pretty much the same, and no arbitrary line drawn by those of who fancy themselves a “nation” can truly separate us from one another.
Next time you venture out, leave “society” at home and take a good look at the person next to you. They’re all the matters. Get to know them, not what they do. Bostonians taught me that. They taught me that life is not just about enduring hardship and tragedy. Living is about HOW you endure it. Lead your life with compassion. With integrity. For each other. And while acts of despicable forethought may disturb and signify an underlying societal sickness, there is hope for a cure as long we show compassion for not only those who suffer, but also those who cause suffering. As long as we maintain that mentality, we can mend any wound. That’s what I saw in Boston during and after the marathon bombings. That’s why I am proud to call myself a Bostonian.