Monday, April 15, 2013

Terrorists bomb the Boston Marathon. 

I heard it on the radio while I was building a dumb aluminum patio cover. And, though I try to avoid cursing unnecessarily, I thought: WTF? Cursing, in my head at first, because it was necessary. Cursing out loud, later, because I lamely had no other way to express my anger.

It’s been said recently, and can’t be repeated enough, that if you ever lose hope in humanity you should go to a marathon. It’s all there: the legions of people with the will to press on through unbearable circumstances, partnered with the good-natured support of legions of empathetic strangers. Universal camaraderie. An all-pervading glow of triumph over the will. The Human Spirit, soaring to its greatest height. We try to overcome seemingly impossible circumstances. And, if we can’t, we cheer on those who do.

And for some evil nut to try and destroy that, has got to be utterly psychotic. 

He will suffer an eternal shame for the despicable deed, I believe, but for now we have to deal with the immediate circumstances. And the media did not handle it well, with their repeated airing of the few seconds of the bombs exploding and the white smoke, heralding the arrival of some awful anti-pope. When I got home I immediately went looking for information and images to satiate my emotional need to get a handle on the event, and I found the video, taken from a camera phone of a nearby spectator.

But what I saw in the full record was more than smoke and noise, and again fifteen seconds later, down the block. I saw a runner in the immediate vicinity fall to his knees from the concussion of the shockwaves. And I saw someone run to help him up, a half second later. I saw people go down in the bad mists, and then a myriad of others run straight into them, shouting.

I saw people running from every direction. Running. Without delay. Into the smoke and unafraid. I saw officers and event volunteers ripping apart spectator barriers and throwing them onto the course, in a desperate effort to get at the carnage.

And later I saw the carnage. A man being moved swiftly away in a wheelchair. Dazed look on his face, overcome with the worst kind of shock, as he was missing a leg. The bone sticking straight out, blood everywhere, long tendons dragging alongside the madness. This man will never run again, I thought.

And then to hear that an eight-year-old boy had been killed, his sister had also lost a limb, and his mother had suffered brain injuries. They were there cheering on their dad, who ran 26 whole miles to see this, and collect what was left of them.

And if I had run the Long Beach Marathon a couple years ago, a few minutes faster, that might have been me. And that might have been my family.

Some evil, self-loathing person made this, whether for glory or for cause, and he should be removed. His name erased. His soul given up to God for judgement. 

As a runner, I must admit it’s all hit home and gotten pretty personal with me. I was at a race last week, and saw the pride and joy and good spirit of humanity all around. This terrorism is sickening, but it’s also a giant fail. Because, outside of the American Soldier, I doubt you could find anyone more tenacious to attack than the Marathon Runner. But the marathon runners are disarmed, and that makes you a coward.

Cowardice is an awful thing, and drives us to desperate acts. That ancient god, Mars, was the god of war, but he was also the god of cowardice, and there is wisdom in that invention. A wise man will rage in only a rare moment, but a coward will cast disparages, passive-aggressively build up his own self, run from his enemy and fortify his position, and then, hoping in his lonesomeness that he will be vindicated, ever pursue the upper hand, raging all along. 

And yet the wise man has the upper hand. He is running the race. He is cheering on those who do. He is, I believe, good. And he is, I pray, legion.