A Reminder to Be Good to Each Other

The Atlantic
A Reminder to Be Good to Each Other
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A Reminder to Be Good to Each Other

Something terrible has happened in Boston, this is clear from television and from the Internet, from photos on Twitter, from the news reporters on the ground, and from the images of those left bloody and wounded by what's currently being reported as two explosions located near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, near Copley Place. We don't, of course, know exactly what happened—this story, like all breaking news stories, will continue to unfold and will certainly continue to upset and horrify us as it does so. For now, we do know that something's dreadfully wrong. 

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Personally, I'm furious about this. I'm disgusted, I'm heartbroken, and I feel sick. And I want to take my rage out on someone or something, I really do. 

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Today is Patriots' Day in Boston, which makes what happened in a seemingly safe place, where people were doing something positive and life-affirming that they've trained and worked to do for months or longer, even more heartbreaking. The Boston Marathon is run on Patriots' Day every year; the two days—Marathon Day, Patriots' day—are nearly interchangeable in that way. And as someone who has lived in Boston very near the spot where the explosions occurred, and enjoyed my own Patriots' Day off work to cheer on Marathoners, I can say that I am sure the streets were full of happy people just before this happened, people who had no idea what was about to happen, and that adds to my heartbreak and sense of futility. We don't know who or what or how this occurred; what exactly it was, or if there's any chance that it could be other than a purposefully devastating act. Newscasters are careful to point out that it could be an accident of some sort, and reporters who've covered similar stories are quick to say that we shouldn't jump to conclusions. We know this. At the same time, everything coming through on Twitter, online, on TV, is enough for us to know that it's awful. And that whoever did this, if someone did this, that person is the worst sort of reprehensible coward there is. But again, we don't know yet. We know so little.

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When the news began to emerge, like many others, I was listening to the Pulitzer Prizes being awarded. So were a lot of people around the Internet, around America. It was a thrilling moment, full of hope and positivity, too—and suddenly, with this news, everything is changed. In an instant, everything is different. It's brutally, horribly different for those 2 currently reported killed, for the 23 now reported injured, for loved ones of those people, for people who were there, for people who are trying to track down those they care about. It's different if we're police or emergency workers. The situation is far less different for those of us safe in our offices, watching the news from afar. But we all feel it; if we have feelings, we feel it, and we are angry. We want to know, and we want to blame, as if that will help our anger dissipate. We're also scared. Are there more devices? Could something else happen next, in another town, in the same one? Emotionally we are vulnerable and terrified, grieving for those whom we may have lost, grieving for the national innocence we have been slowly but surely hoping we might someday reclaim, despite setbacks, despite tragedies.

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I am angry that the tragedies continue. 

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It's fair to be angry, I think. How else could we feel? And in anger, safe behind our computers, we start to snark or troll or do nasty things. And we react to those who we feel have done the wrong thing, saying that this media organization shouldn't have tweeted this, or that we can't believe so-and-so kept talking about the Pulitzers after the news broke. None of that's going to make us feel better, because honestly, who cares about that, at a time like this? If there is a time we should care about each other, and try to find the best in humanity in general, it is now. We are not the enemy. Whoever—whatever—caused this is. As we try to find out what happened, let's be good to each other. There will be plenty of time for outrage later. There are more important things right now than getting angry at each other. 

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