A reaction to Boston; mass violence and our generation

The Daily News

It’s a clear, sunny day. Then there’s an explosion. It all seems to happen in a second. People are screaming and running down the street. White smoke billows upward, filling the street already choked with panicked people and drifting up and mixing with the tops of buildings. Police officers jump into action, sifting through the rubble and carrying broken, injured citizens away from the hell. 

The scene is familiar to college students. It looks like the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, one of my oldest memories. It could be the London Subway Bombings of 2005, Anders Breivik’s attack in Oslo, Norway in 2001 or it could be the bombings in Boston on Monday. 

Esteemed Indianapolis-based author John Green said on his YouTube channel Tuesday, “To call these attacks cowardly is an insult to cowards.” 

Sights like these are all too familiar, especially for the current generation of 18 to 20-somethings. Seeing that a dozen or more innocent people have been killed or maimed because of someone’s religious beliefs is upsetting. To see that 20 small children were massacred in an elementary school for no discernible reason at all defies imagination. 

The only thing more disturbing than that is to see how many people were clearly “inspired” by these atrocities and attempted to do the same. They saw vicious killers as role models: heroes to be emulated. 

It’s left the entire world with questions. The most common one must be “why?” Why? What kind of person would do this? What makes a human being believe that harming other human beings is the answer: the best way forward? Are they ill, evil or both? Can we help a person like that? If not, can we at least stop them?

We do not have answers to these questions. Maybe we will someday, but for now we’re condemned to shocked disbelief. 

Our villains are not the villains of the past. It seems the most despicable motive of a movie villain in the 40s or 50s was to harm a person for money. Money, a tangible thing that can be traded for other tangible things. It’s something that can at least be understood, if not condoned. 

In the 21st century we grapple with an ideological enemy: a slippery, squirming, slithering thing that defies observation and manifests itself in the darkest recesses of the human mind. 

When it rears its head we see the worst humanity has to offer but we also see the best. 

Runners needed a place to sleep and shower after the blasts. Bostonians used the Internet to offer their homes and beds to strangers. Others, hundreds if not thousands of miles away, helped to feed them through “Random Acts of Pizza,” converting a mean-spirited prank into a welcome gift. 

Humanity now has the tools and the know-how to collaborate in ways never before imagined. This week in Boston, the forces for good came out in new and beautiful ways. 

We have the power to share ideas, information and beauty at the click of a button. We have the power to turn intangible things like love, charity and data on a webpage into pizza, warm beds and hugs from reunited family members. 

In the words of the great Charlie Chaplin, “You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.”

Those words were spoken 73 years ago and are somehow truer now than they were then. 

Those who would create before they would destroy will win. We will always win because we outnumber the forces of destruction magnificently. Only when we forget this do we remain silent. 

Be reminded of this when you see on the news that a white-supremacist group has been countermarched by a peace group by a margin of 10 to 1. Never forget about “the helpers” in Fred Rogers’ now famous quote. 

“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.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” 

Be a helper. You have the power. Now more than you ever have. 


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