Boston (Part 2): Violence and The Resilience of The Human Spirit

BOSTON BOMBINGRight when we thought the dark days were over–when we thought that Newtown was as tragic as it could get–Monday happened in Boston, and then Wednesday happened in Texas. We were still mourning, expecting to find the people responsible and to find real justice, but then last night happened: shots in MIT and shootouts in Watertown. With my family living in Boston, I find all I can do is write how I feel over the events that have transpired over the last week–it’s the only thing that’s keeping me somewhat sane.

With all the deaths, injuries, and explosions that occurred this week, one thing that has been constantly going through my head is contemplating the current state of the world. With Newtown and Boston both happening within a few months of one another, I’m beginning  to question how safe we now actually are. When we have to fear sending our children to school, seeing a movie, or even going to a sporting event, I can’t help but think that no space is really safe anymore. These last several months have proven to me that we are living in a world of unpredictable violence, but I’m also beginning to realize that this isn’t anything new. The only thing that is new is that we are finally able to come to terms that, maybe, life can’t be so easily taken for granted. That, perhaps, life is more fragile and delicate than we ever could have imagined, and to allow ourselves to be governed by violence is to allow ourselves to admit defeat.

In no way to diminish all that has happened–because these really are some of the darkest days this country has seen in a while–but for so long, people have lived their lives being governed with the same unpredictable and random violence we’ve had to experience this last week. It was that same random terror that killed Emmett Hill, Treyvon Martin, Rodney King, and so many others who lived in a constant fear that one wrong mistake would be their death. So often do people–usually poor, usually of color–navigate through a world where every step, every word, and every breath of air could be their last. This is the world so many people are victims to, and the world that so many people meet the unfortunate outcome of dying in. This is the same world that so many of us never acknowledge, because it’s a world most of us will never have to transverse.

I mourn for Boston because this isn’t the way we should learn how to empathize with others who are less fortunate. When hundreds of people are hurt and killed, it’s hard to see the silver-lining from such an event, or to see it as the necessary path to allow us to grow in.

What gives me hope, though, is that although what happened in Boston was unusual, it was not original. As horrible as those bombings were, Boston does not stand alone from other tragic events in the history of this country. The world we are living in now–a world of unpredictability and random acts of violence–is the same world we have always been living in. As rare as the marathon was, too often before have our isolated bubbles been burst. Too often has violence tried to govern us through fear. Before Newtown and Boston, there was Aurora,  Virginia Tech, 9/11, Oklahoma City, Waco, Columbine, and  many other tragic moments that awakened this country’s consciousness to what is real: that violence is everywhere, and it doesn’t just effect the small few, but everyone.

I’m not saying to look at these events as solely a moment to begin to count our blessings while others are still grieving, because that becomes way to individually oriented. We first have to look at these events–however tragic and soon it may be–and see the potential for us to grow. Now is the time to learn the cost of violence–domestically as well as abroad. But that doesn’t mean we can’t also begin to appreciate the lives we have, as well. When we start to understand that everywhere and everyone can be a victim to terrorism, we have to start to understand and appreciate the lives we have, as well as those we love.

Looking back at this past week, I’m starting to realize that we won’t live forever, death is unavoidable, but knowing that it can come sooner than we expect puts more joy and meaning into those moments we do have, and proves how strong and resilient the human spirit is–that no matter how dark the days may be, we will never give up smiling, laughing, and loving one another.

Boston

It seems appropriate to say we all know of the events that transpired yesterday–that two explosions went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, 3 dead, while around 150 severely injured. A lot of speculations are taking root as the events go viral.  As someone who is residing in the U.S., it makes sense to relate this situation to the events that occurred in December in Newtown, CT. Both occurred in areas close to where I live and grew up, both were acts of unusual violence that erupted in unpredictable fashion resulting in innocent causalities–including children, and both opened the country’s eyes and shook the bubbles we perpetually live in. But with both these instances, what links them together more than anything else is the political/social/spiritual climate that hangs in the air in the wake of such tragedies. Now is the time to look inward and outward, as well as to grow.

What makes what happened in Boston so much different, though, for me at least, was the personal investment I had in the outcome. My mother works on the same block as where the first explosion went off. I remember seeing on my fb news-feed her posting a picture of the finish line from her office window that morning before the explosions occurred . As I turned on the news, it was that picture that first came to my mind,  and so naturally, I immediately called to make sure she was safe. Luckily for me, she was able to make it home okay. I’m extremely grateful, but at the same time I can’t help but remember: not everyone is so fortunate. So many other people had similar ties to the events, but different outcomes. The fear I felt for 5 minutes and that was quickly relieved was the same fear so many other people felt but was quickly turned to grief and pain. Too often are we only trained to see events like these and how they connect to us on the individual level. It’s easy for Americans to empathize when it happens in our backyards, but eventually we need to abandon this mindset for a broader one.

In my post Thoughts on Newtown, I write:

“Counting our blessings is a good start, but problematic if thats where it ends because meaningful change will never happen. There is something really wrong when all we do is remember how well we have it in the wake of others suffering. Its an individualistic mindset we have too often been trained to think. It hinders us from making proper assessments that would create radical reforms and potentially prevent events like yesterday from happening again. Even though it comes from a pure place, that way of thinking LIMITS our potentiality.”

In the conclusion, I state:

“We need to see this as an international problem. We have to acknowledge the international role of America (militarian), and how it is carried out (violently). We need to see the contradictions behind Obama’s sympathy towards the victims of Newtown right after he killed innocent lives overseas TESTING drones. We need to understand that if we want to be safe domestically, then our foreign policies need to change. When the president drops drones, when the US militarily occupies other countries, when we support war, we are fostering a violent environment, and we think that we will be unaffected by the violence we produced. But most importantly, we need to remember how we feel today EVERYDAY. The level of empathy we feel towards CT needs to be the same level of empathy towards the people around the world affected by war, natural disasters, exploitation, and other injustices.”

I’m having difficulties coming up with a similar conclusion to these events yesterday like I was able to for Newtwon. I can’t seem to understand what it means or accept if it is solely a part of an international problem that needs to be addressed. But what I do know is that violence, mass killings, and a culture of hatred have been brewing for far too long now in this world and that instead of really trying to solve anything, we as a society have continually fed hate with hate. In the wake of tragedies, more often than not do we become so polarized that meaningful change rarely happens, rather the same events keep occurring because we are openly exposed and they just reinforce the rifting divide. 

The price of violence is costly and we cannot afford to continually leave these things to chance. Unless we begin to take a proactive stance towards hate and violence, I’m going to remain fearful of the future that is ahead.