Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | April 16, 2013


2013 Boston Marathon

Our thoughts and prayers are with Boston this week. Regarding yesterday’s horrific events, I have little to say that others have not already said better. Besides, a lot of people are closer to the scene in a variety of ways. So here are some links.

First, Dan Drezner is a professor at Tufts University just north of Boston. He has a post entitled, “Boston you’re my home”:

Patriots’ Day is a holiday in Massachusetts. In Boston it is known for two events–the running of the Boston Marathon and the only Major League Baseball game of the year that starts at 11 a.m. Your humble blogger is in no danger of trying to run a marathon, so he and his family went to see the Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays in a thrilling walk-off win. And as we boarded the Green Line to leave Fenway, me and mine were happy that the day had gone well for Boston sports.

Soon after we got off the train, we learned that it had not been such a great day.

This is the kind of event where our monkey brains try to search for a deeper meaning, some moral or narrative or response that can sustain us through such moments of nihilism. In many ways, that’s a mistake. Sure, the “helpers” and the response to the tragedy should be highlighted. Obsessing about the tragedy itself, however, won’t do any good and will do much harm. As Bruce Schneier points out, the whole point of such an attack is to maximize the attention paid to the seeming breakdown in order — although what actually happened was that emergency providers and ordinary citizens did their utmost to bring order back to chaos. …

As President Obama and others have pointed out, Boston is a tough, resilient town. This sort of thing will shock us in the moment. As shock fades away, what is left is something stronger and more substantive, something that a few homemade bombs cannot destroy. That’s the narrative that will hopefully emerge, and it’s the one that does the best job of defeating the psychology of terrorism.

Second, over at the League, “Russell Sanders” is the pseudonym of a pediatrician who lives in Maine and from time to time sees patients in Boston. He has a post entitled, “It shouldn’t take courage to run a race”:

It should not be an act of courage to lace up your shoes and run a road race. It should take dedication and fortitude and stamina. It should require perseverance and a willingness to push through pain. But it shouldn’t demand bravery, a willingness to overcome fear for your basic physical safety.

And now, in some way, it does.

Of course, that’s what’s so despicable about terrorism. (Beyond, of course, the profound evil of murdering and maiming innocent people. What further commentary need be offered about that? All people of decency can agree.) It takes something that should require no courage and suddenly demands it. It shouldn’t be an act of courage to dine out in Tel Aviv. It’s shouldn’t be an act of courage to buy groceries in Baghdad. It shouldn’t be an act of courage to earn your paycheck in a skyscraper in Manhattan.

And then it becomes one.

Which is the ironic failure of terrorism. Because of course people will continue to dine out in Tel Aviv and go to market in Baghdad and step on the elevator in New York City. Where previously they did so without thinking, now they do so in a quietly defiant way. Because people will refuse to obey the dictates of the depraved and craven, and will go on living their lives. They will locate the courage within themselves. They will keep running marathons.

It’s a beautiful day outside Boston today. I think I’ll go running.

Third, I will go ahead and reprint the quote from the late Fred Rogers that has been making the rounds on Facebook the past two days: “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.'”

There are also posts from Dean Dad, Thoreau, and Megan McArdle. Dan Shaughnessy has a column at the Boston Globe: “Boston Marathon will never be the same.”

2013 Boston Marathon

2013 Boston Marathon

2013 Boston Marathon

2013 Boston Marathon

Image Credits: All photos by Sonia Su, April 15, 2013, and used under a Creative Commons CC BY 2.0 license. Source: Flickr.


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