When President Obama said Americans are standing with Boston, I was reminded that we stood in solidarity with Boston before – before, indeed, there actually was a United States of America, in 1774 – also confronting a common enemy.
I’ve also heard much commentary that we’ll never feel safe again. That implies we did feel safe, before Monday. Well, if the 3000 dead on 9/11 had already slipped from our consciousness, surely even sooner will the three Boston dead. That bespeaks not callousness but resilience.
But what does feeling safe mean? Who on this planet has ever been “safe”? One woman on the radio said she now worried about her husband, walking to work, being victim of a bomb. Had she never feared his being hit by a car (vastly more likely)? And, no matter what precautions we take, death is not just a danger, it’s a certainty.
That’s the human condition, but we do carry on, we go about our business, live our lives, in spite of it. Fear of car crashes doesn’t paralyze us, nor do all the other myriad threats – including bombs. Bombs fell nightly on London during the blitz, but even then its citizens got out of bed each morning. That is the nobility of human life.
It also makes such terrorist acts so maddeningly pointless. Yes, these atrocities do terrify us, yet they cannot alter our human nature. If we got over 9/11*, what makes the Boston villains envision some different result? What could they hope to accomplish?
The will to harm fellow creatures is baffling. We are all in the same sinking boat (life), nothing we do can change that, but shouldn’t our joint fate engender compassion?
Well, it does, of course; and the acts of compassion in Boston dwarfed the bombers’ acts of malice. I go back to Steven Pinker’s book about the decline of violence (reviewed by me here). Violence has indeed been playing a diminishing role in human affairs, and a basic reason is that people have simply learned better ways to gain their ends. How tragic, though, that there are still some who didn’t get the memo.
* Well, admittedly, while we the people did get over 9/11, that being our nature, unfortunately the government did not; and that’s its nature; with thousands of people whose job it becomes to not get over it. America was harmed more after 9/11 by what government did than by what the terrorists did.