Boston, You’ll Get Through This

Memories of Boston.

Grimy rides on the T.  Bewitching days in Salem; late nights at Mama Kin on Landsdowne Street.  Morphine (the band, that is) at the Brookline Festival; Green Day at the Shell.  The Citgo sign from behind the green posts at Fenway Park.  Leisurely walks through Back Bay, Bunker Hill, Boston Common.  Uninterpretable street signs and a thousand wrong turns.  Pool at Jillian’s; chess in the Living Room.  Hidden treasures at Newbury Comics; cheap t-shirts at the Garment District.  Scorpion bowls at the Hong Kong.

These fleeting bits of my young adulthood resurfaced in a white flash yesterday as I watched horror unfold at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street.

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My heart aches for those killed, injured, or otherwise affected by those two bombs.  Boston deserves the nation’s support, assistance, and love.  I don’t really think it needs our sympathy, though.

Let me tell you something about New Englandahs.  There are a couple qualities I’ve come to understand and admire regarding people living in New England, having lived there myself for four years.  First, they are resilient.  You don’t germinate a new nation and win a Revolutionary War in -10 degree temperatures without inner strength and a hardy disposition.  Second, they are honest.  They speak the truth, even if it’s uncomfortable or hard to hear.  As we as a society become gradually more soft and squishy, I think we might benefit from reminding ourselves of the virtues of these qualities.

Last night over dinner, while discussing the day’s events with our boys, my wife asked, perhaps more to herself than to me, “Do we all just have to live with this kind of thing happening forever?”  In New England fashion, my answer, perhaps more to myself than to her, was “probably, yeah.”  Why?  Because 1) history as shown over and over that there always have been, and therefore likely always will be, some people far removed from the bell curve whose violent actions affect the course of history; and 2) because this modern world is full of passive aggression, of which yesterday’s attack was a particularly extreme form.  We all encounter it on one level or another regularly throughout the course of our lives; it’s unavoidable.  And though our everyday encounters with passive aggression may be less violent than a homemade bomb in Boston, they carry with them their own unique risks and potential for danger.

Having children obligates you to redefine and reorganize your thoughts so they can be explained specifically and clearly.  How do you explain how a risky, even seemingly brave act is actually cowardly?  Here’s the best I could come up with yesterday.  If you detonate a bomb and claim responsibility, you’ve communicated with the person or organization you have a beef with indirectly, and at the expense of innocent people.  If you detonate a bomb and don’t claim responsibility, then you’ve hurt many people without communicating anything but pain, simply to satisfy some twisted, unmet inner need.  Either way, you’re a coward.

Boston will rebound with a vengeance, as it always has.  I have no doubts about that.  I agree with its mayor:  Boston is a strong city.  I’m providing no sleep advice today.  I will offer this, however, fully recognizing that I’m no more qualified to comment on such things than anyone else.  Love the ones you love with truth, man.  Communicate and behave directly and honestly.  To me, honesty is every bit as important as kindness; it is in fact a form of kindness, even if the truth hurts. What does it say about humankind when there is so often the appearance of kindness when something sinister lurks underneath?

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