The Boston Marathon Bombings Prompt Better Inclinations

16 Apr

A third bomb was found on the other side of the finish line, near Dartmouth Street. It was dismantled by authorities. At least one more device was found and dismantled. We don’t know why two people had to die and 115 were injured during two bomb explosions (a third explosion is not related) that occurred during the Boston Marathon. But,  there’s a lot of photos and a stubborn refusal not to speculate, except for Luke Russert‘s tweet, connecting the bombings to Patriots’ Day and the FBI assault on the Waco compound in 1993. Security in Washington, DC, New York, and Boston is heightened.

I needed to read something edifying.

Today, the final line of the Boston Marathon is a crime scene. It’s a testament to how much more evil human beings can be than we can imagine. The bomb — or at least what we think was a bomb — went off at four hours and nine minutes. As Pacific Standard notes, that’s a popular marathon time. It seems likely that the detonation was timed to kill as many people as possible.

But that’s not all it was meant to do. It was also meant to be on television. It was meant to be on the front page of every newspaper, to be the top story of every news broadcast. That way it could hurt even the people who weren’t there. It could make everyone in the country feels a bit weaker, a bit more vulnerable, a bit more scared.

“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon,” wrote Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. Her story, as recounted by Dave Zirin, is worth thinking about today:

Through 1966, women weren’t allowed to run the grueling 26-mile race. But in 1967, a woman by the name of Kathrine Switzer registered as K.V. Switzer and, dressed in loose fitting sweats, took to the course. Five miles into the race, one of the marathon directors actually jumped off a truck to forcibly remove Switzer from the course, yelling: “Get the hell out of my race!” But the men running with her fought him off. For them, Kathrine Switzer had every right to be there. For them, the Boston Marathon wasn t about exclusion or proving male supremacy — pitting boys against girls. It was about people running a race. Somehow Kathrine Switzer kept her pace as this mayhem occurred all around her. As she said, “I could feel my anger dissipating as the miles went by — you can’t run and stay mad!”

When the pictures from the marathon were transmitted across the globe, the world saw two opposing models of masculinity: the violence and paranoia of the marathon director vs. the strength and solidarity of the other male runners.

If you are losing faith in human nature today, watch what happens in the aftermath of an attack on the Boston Marathon. The flood of donations crashed the Red Cross’s Web site. The organization tweeted that its blood supplies are already full. People are lining up outside of Tufts Medical Center to try and help. Runners are already vowing to be at marathons in the coming weeks and months. This won’t be the last time the squeakers run Boston. This won’t be the last time we gather at the finish line to marvel how much more we can take than anyone ever thought possible.

Americans’ psyches have taken a battering since 9/11, something a recent trip to the American Embassy in Seoul and any trip including an American airport will confirm. I hope this tragic incident does not encourage retaliation.


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