Monday, April 15, 2013

Marathon Monday

Warning: The following is a rant written by an angry and sad young man who spent much of his formative life in the city of Boston. His words might not be coherent or well written. He is doing his best to work through a situation he will never understand. Also, he posts everything without rereading or editing and curses on occasion... for your consideration.

Boston was home for 20 percent of my life.

I lived and worked a quarter of a mile away from the 20-mile mark of the Boston Marathon. My first Marathon Monday was humorously unappreciated, as I didn't know what Patriot's Day was or even that I had the day off. I was completely ignorant of the holiday and how much of a spectator event the marathon is. I walked to Cleveland Circle that year, but spent more time avoiding my students openly "celebrating" than I did watching the race.

Over the next five years, my experience certainly evolved from watching closely, cheering for strangers, to the often-muttered "maybe we should do this next year," to what became a little tradition of following the race path from Boston College into the city. Each year I eventually came to the finish line and watched families greet their loved ones after completing an amazing feat. Each year I grew closer to the city and closer to the race.

Marathon Monday became one of the rare holidays I respected. Not because they call it Patriot's Day, but because of how easily it brought a city together for an utterly positive event. Thousands of thousands of strangers cheering and celebrating thousands of strangers. Families, friends, children, volunteers, sidewalk barbecues. It could have been chaos, but an aura of respect always seemed to keep order.

Today I was home when Facebook told me about the bombs.
Jenna was home as well and we spent the next few hours balancing playing with the baby, watching Desmond and searching for news.

The positives I've taken from today have been few, but significant. The power of social media has been astounding. I have gotten better, faster, more efficient information from Twitter and Facebook than from the network news. 
Patton Oswalt wrote a fantastic post that will thankfully be read and shared by thousands of his fans and individuals. I have seen instant and sincere shows of support without the pomp and circumstance (read purposeful terror, embellishment, and lack of any sort of decorum or ethics) from the networks.

That bring me to some of the negative.

We live in a tough world.

We live in quite possibly the best part of that tough world. Our problems are the price of gas for our cars or minor annoyances like traffic. The majority of the planet has real worries. You know what they are ... you have seen it in movies, flashes on the news, fly-by-night Facebook campaigns or maybe on a few placards on your college green.

The terror and sadness much of our country feels today after the devastating event at the finish line of the Marathon so many thousands have run and so many millions have enjoyed is the same terror and sadness much of the world lives with on a daily basis. When the special hour long ABC World News is opened with "Terror! In Boston." Spoken in the deepest most treacherous voice they could find in the bad movie voice over department there was no doubt they were trying to keep us scared. They are referencing the blood, the other national tragedies and bombings and making sure to spout off as many buzzwords about fear, pain, suffering, or terror as they can fit in.

I've felt sick all afternoon.
I felt sick after hearing about the bombs.
I felt sick after seeing photos and video footage.
I felt sick thinking of my students and friends who could have been in danger.
I felt sick remembering four years ago when Jenna and I were happily strolling around the finish line right around the three-hour mark of the marathon.
I felt sick reading the ignorant Facebook posts from friends and strangers already placing blame or assuring the unknown enemy of a swift and violent response.
I felt sick at how easily individuals turn to hate, racism, violence, and utter indecency in response to the same.

My heart broke as I watched my little girl laughing and playing with her mommy, completely unaware of the pains the world will bring her.

It's sad. 
All of it.
The action. Much of the response.
What it says about our world.

A lot of people asked the double-barreled (no pun intended) question, "What is our world coming to? Is nothing sacred?"

This has always been the world in which we live; today it's just a little closer than most.

Making things sacred are the reason they are targeted and the reason it hurts so bad when they are desecrated. Kevin Smith hasn't given us much lately, but he did give us Chris Rock's speech in Dogma about having ideas of faith over beliefs. People hold onto beliefs as if they are facts. They kill and die for them. Ideas can change; ideas, like people, are flexible and give way to conversation, growth, and adjustment.

None of the religions have it right. None of the countries have it right. Chances are if someone is telling you something is definitely one way over another, they have an agenda.

Our young people need to learn to think. Learn to question everything. Learn that the only thing that is going to separate them from the person next to them is their individual identity and unique thoughts. Learn how lucky we are to be where we are, but that this is not the greatest place in the world. America, like anyplace else, is terribly flawed because its people are flawed. I do not seek a remedy for that - I am looking for acceptance. If we all stopped making so many broad stroke assumptions or hate-based reactions…

Today is a sad day in my world because I spent so much time in Boston; the city and the marathon mean so much to me. Today is a sad day in my world because I have been so disappointed by so many people and formally respectable establishments.

I choose to swallow up all this anger, breathe through all this sadness and look at the details. When the first bomb went off on Boylston today it knocked an older gentleman running the race to his knees and on the ground. By now, most of you have seen that image and the following image of the man sitting in the street bleeding. You see the smoke, blood, wreckage and carnage. It is scary. It's okay to be scared and mad and sad ... but don't forget to notice the details. When that bomb went off and that man fell to the ground, a half a dozen individuals ran right to his side. They ran toward the smoke and noise and into the carnage.

These men and women aren't what is good about America or Boston or their religions or anything else. These men and women are the only hope possessed by humanity. Through all the filth, hate, destruction and muck, the bright light is our capacity for complete and utter selflessness. I truly believe it was in each and every one of us at some point. Some people have lost it through these tragedies, through bitterness, through selfishness, naivety and a need to separate themselves from thinking about the things in life that might make them feel something they can't control or understand. But even if it's gone, it is still around.

In your neighbor.

In a stranger.

In far-away countries we’ll never visit or understand.

We're a simple people easily, startled and easily swayed. Ask questions. If you must fight, fight to make it better. Fight to educate our children and each other. Fight against the urge to flee. Pick someone up when they are down. There are a lot more people in this flawed world who want to be good and live in peace than those who are evil and crave chaos.

I'm thinking of my friends, my family, my students, their loved ones, and I'm thinking of the energy radiating through Boston on Marathon Monday. I remember how great it is and how many lives have been changed because of it. A lot of people got hurt today ... a few even died. We don't know why and maybe we never will. I do know that running that race raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for strangers. Running that race changed the way hundreds of individuals viewed fitness and their lifestyle choices. Running that race honored the victims of another senseless American tragedy. There will be an asterisk next to Patriot Day and Marathon Monday from here on out, but if we do our job correctly, that asterisk will someday tell about the people whose lives changed for the better after a tragedy that has, sadly, become all-too common.

I really don't know if anything I wrote made sense. I do know when I started writing I was very sad. I was very angry after that and in all the stupid things I've done and been through in my life, one of the best things I've ever learned is how to work through that. Anger is consuming ... find the other side.
I'm finishing this post with hope for whomever reads this. We're a terrible species capable of so much good. I believe it is time to strive for that good rather than living in the shadows of the fear that surrounds us.

Note: Thank you Kris Young, one of the quickest and most poignant young men I know,  and Justin Schoenberger, one of the best writers I get to call a friend, for helping me post this.

1 comment:

  1. Very insightful Thomas....More people need to think this way and it's important for us to say what we think and feel, and hopefully to help heal our angst.
    Michelle Van Sickle Platt (Erica Frost's mom)