I have been to Boston several times, but the only people I know who live there are (at best) acquaintances. I don’t run for fun or sport and was ignorant to the magnitude and significance of the Boston Marathon.
For these, and other reasons, I have felt removed from the events of the past week. Before today, I was not feeling the same visceral pain and anxiety as with Newtown or similar tragedies where I was more identified. I certainly felt horrible for the people involved, but I was not glued to the news and I did not turn to social media or this blog to share my fears and anxieties; mostly because I felt they were unjustified and insignificant compared to others who were more intimate with this story.
But today, with the unraveling of the manhunt and the illumination of the lives of the suspects, I feel pulled into this tragedy anew. With every update, I am wrapped with a familiar kind of fear.
Brothers: one a man, the other just barely. Conflicting reports: A coach says of the younger one, “… dedicated kid, and all the kids loved him.” The uncle says they were both “losers.” Former friends and teachers of the younger brother use the word, “nice” and “normal.” A cousin says the older one had turned radical in his Islamic beliefs and was corrupting the younger brother. The family is said to be “incredible” in a good way. The father calls his sons “angels” and insists they were “set up.”
Right now the information is conflicted and confusing; the truth likely buried somewhere among the rumor and rubble. This is why my fear antennas rise.
Do you ever really know someone? I mean, really know them? With each report of “normal” turned “violent” I can’t help but think that our bodies and faces are just a facade for what lies within us. Evil can walk next to you on the sidewalk, sit behind you in class, or bump your shoulder on the subway and you wouldn’t even know it. How could you?
I ask myself, are we all highly skilled actors projecting to the world what it expects to see? Or is the world so scared of the truth that our eyes will only see the what we want to see? Did the brothers project to the world a “normal” facade? Or did the world define the brothers with labels it could accept? Labels less scary than the truth.
I’m not afraid of being subject to a terrorist attack. I understand those odds are infinitesimal. I’m not afraid that my children are growing up in an unsafe world. Yes, I understand that evil exists, but I believe love exists in a larger capacity.
My fears are more esoteric. What scares me are the imperceptible human masks. The thin veils we place over our eyes and ourselves to hide the things we cannot and do not want to see. The invisible dividers that separate us; that tell us we’re alone, or different, or not good enough. The shields we hold in the name of protection, in spite of the pain. This shadow and its murky opacity is the Petri dish of evil. It’s the perfect environment to allow evil to fester until it invades the mind and convinces someone it’s a good idea to drop a backpack bomb in the middle of a crowd just because you believe they are not like you.
Humanity, in its never-ending variation, dichotomy, and adaptability are the reasons I love this life. It is also the thing that scares me most.
This feeling of being different, removed and untouched by the events of the past week is my own veil. The veil I put up to shield me from the hurt of others so that I would not have to submerge myself in their world, their pain, their fears.
But I’m all in now, Boston. I’m emotionally there with the runners, mothers, fathers, classmates, coaches, friends and acquaintances. I feel your hurt and your terror and your anxiety for the next hour, day, week, year. I offer you my prayers, my thoughts, my hopes for comfort and justice and peace. My emotions are visceral now and that’s okay because I’m not hiding from the collective fear, and thus, my own. No mask, no veil, no shield, no shadows.
And maybe what brings me comfort in times like this, can bring some comfort to you as well. It’s an ageless wisdom:
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
~Both quotes from Martin Luther King Jr
Love & Light, Boston