Boston: Evil Acts, Epic Unfairness and a Message of Hope


My puppy woke me up at 4:30 this morning. An hour earlier than usual. I staggered out of the bedroom, told him to shush, and tried to go back to bed. He started barking again.

After the third trip from the bedroom to the back door, I gave up on sleep. I put on a pot of coffee, made myself some toast and sat down to write a blog post. I had an hour of free time before it would be light enough to take Buddy for a walk.

At 5:00am, just as I was at the halfway point of my blog post, my Facebook timeline exploded.

“What’s happening in Boston???”

“Is it true? Were there bombs?? Is anyone hurt??”

“OMG, Boston!”

“The news is saying two people are dead in Boston. Are you guys okay? Were you there?”

I could barely bring myself to click on the news links.

Not again, I thought. I just can’t take it.

And then, I hope no one I know was there. 

I looked back over my half-finished rant about a very First World Problem and I hit the ‘delete’ button. And then I read the news.

I cried.

But around and around in my head went a single thought. This is so epically unfair. Not the loss of life, or the injuries, or the shattered innocence of the children who were at ground zero this time around. That was all too much to process at 5:00 in the morning.

I just kept thinking about the runners.

The other competitors.

The people who had trained and trained and trained to run the marathon.

The people who made it almost 26 miles — and then watched the finish line explode.

The runners who (mercifully) hadn’t made it to the end. The ones who were within a mile of their goal, and were then redirected elsewhere.

For those people, that race will never be finished.

It will never be over.

No matter how many other marathons they run, in their heads they will always be half a mile, or a mile, or ten miles from the end of Boston 2013, watching as the finish line vanishes in a blast of flame and terrorism and unfairness.

Epic unfairness.

Later in the day, when the dog had been walked and the children fed and dropped at school, when I was standing in the supermarket trying to decide whether to buy lemon or lime scented dishwashing liquid, the full weight of the tragedy hit me.

The true epic unfairness.

The unfairness of good people killed in the midst of a celebration of strength and fitness.

The unfairness of people injured, lives derailed, and a long-held tradition besmirched with blood.

The unfairness of small-minded people committing evil acts.

You’d think that by this stage of my life, considering the number of times I’ve grieved and emotionally bled for victims of terrorist attacks, I would have developed some kind of coping mechanism; some kind of system where I could hear about tragedies and just be okay.

But I haven’t.

So I stood in the supermarket, one hand hovering in front of the dishwashing liquid, and I cried.

And then I came home.

Because there’s more important things in the world than washing dishes.

When I got home, I re-read Patton Oswalt‘s statement. I shared it on Facebook this morning, but it wasn’t until I read it again that I was truly able to appreciate the message of hope he offers. Here’s what he had to say:

Boston. Fucking horrible.

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. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). 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.”

Just take a moment and say it with me.

“The good outnumber you, and we always will.”

It doesn’t change what happened in Boston. It doesn’t minimise the terror or the grief or the sadness. But it does give me hope.

I hope it does the same for you.


Filed under Opinion

17 responses to “Boston: Evil Acts, Epic Unfairness and a Message of Hope

  1. This is something that has been really running through my mind, lately Believe it or not, I was raised to believe that humans were inherently evil. Well, “fallen” or “sinful” or whatever, but that was the nature of my religion at the time (a particularly common variety of Christianity which shall not be named, but lead by a leader who’s title rhymes with NOPE). I understood this to mean, at the time, that we were basically good, but not good enough because we weren’t perfectly good.

    I’ve evolved since then. Every day, you hear news of the evil that men can do here and there around the world. And yet, every day, I’m surrounded by people who are, on average, good. Maybe not perfect, but good. And that is good enough. And the older I get, the more I realize that evil is increasingly a product of flawed cultures that teach us that evil is good and good is evil, and not a product of the base impulse of humanity, which is toward genuine good.

    Today, for the first time, I heard a classic Mr. Rogers quote about times of trouble: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ And I’ve found that’s always true.” It was true yesterday in Boston and true in every disaster I can remember.

    And I like that money quote, at the end, there. It’s good to be reminded of this, now.

    • “Evil is increasingly a product of flawed cultures that teach us that evil is good and good is evil, and not a product of the base impulse of humanity, which is toward genuine good.”

      This sentence reflects my beliefs perfectly. Thank you.

  2. Jo –
    What a wonderful post in the aftermath of such a tragedy. I, too, quoted Patten Oswalt as that last line is the only thing that gets me through the recurrence of terrorist acts. We have to believe that the good outweighs the bad in this world. I have grown to realize that we will never understand how these terrorists think. Even if they sat us down over coffee and explained their rationale it would never justify the end, the loss of life, the loss of innocence. Please know that you are not alone in your tears and shock. Focus on the good – the people that ran toward the explosions to help, the runners who changed course to run to the hospital to give blood, the communities that will rally around those who were hurt or lost loved ones and help them heal. This is what we need to remember.

    • Thank you, Cheryl.

      I think one of the tragedies of these situations is that it can be all too easy to understand. The questions: “How far would you go to protect _______” is a staple of movies, books, and media outlets. But what many people fail to understand is that considering that question makes it easy to think that the end always justifies the means. And that’s simply not the case.

  3. This is wonderful- I hadn’t read that quote- but I love the words and message- Things seem to keep falling down lately and it is the worst form of one-upsmanship- Look at what I can do- look at the horrible things I can do….It is a saddening thing. But, there is also the solidarity that follows that helps bring our minds out of it (the fear)- I just always hope that it lasts….

    • Thank you for commenting. I believe it will. I believe that good will always defeat evil, and that light will always conquer darkness. Because I believe in the innocence of children and the inherent goodness of people.

  4. I hope we never develop a mechanism that makes it easier to cope with these tragedies. We should never just accept them as a part of life. I fear we are getting dangerously close to doing that.

  5. Pingback: Seeking a Quiet Place | [BTW] : Ben Trube, Writer

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  7. Loved this poignant post, Jo. You gave balance to the senseless weight of evil that darkens the doorstep of our minds. And you give us reasons to hope for a brighter future.

  8. A tragedy bring out the helpers, like Mr. Rogers said. It also brings out the beauty in souls. Like yours. Thanks for this post.

  9. I reiterated that statement to my boys and my boss. It must not be forgotten. The bad may be the loudest, but the numbers are on the side of the good.

  10. Pingback: Freedom by the Blood of our Compatriots - ElliWrites

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