I thought about what my response to yesterday’s shock and tragedy in Boston should be, not as a publisher, rather as a man, an American, the head of a family, and a runner. My conclusions are not offered as a guide, rather that sometimes it’s comforting to know others are thinking as you do; and sometimes (not always!) a thought shared is a thought worth hearing.
After shock came revulsion, then came grief. Then concern for those in my immediate and extended set of friends and family. And then, of course, anger.
Let’s talk about the anger for a moment, because I recognized my own need to deal with and process that. Get it done. Get it out of the way. Not so that I won’t be angry at whomever perpetrated this, or that my anger will wholly abate. Rather, so that my anger is not my prime mover. So that I can function, and expend my energy in a helpful and sober way.
I’d like to point out the New York Post, a fit proxy for every natural instinct I have. All the behaviors to which I am naturally prone in situations like this are precisely those I should take great pains to avoid. It occurred to me that the New York Post knows my predilections, and rather than warn me against them, it sees its job to feed them. When I saw the attached front page, I knew that it was probably a good idea to take a screenshot, because it would make for a proper show-and-tell piece later.
As we see, just about everything on that page was spectacularly wrong. There are, as of this writing, 3 dead, not 12. Further, the “suspect” Saudi National referenced in the Post turns out to be guilty... of being a Saudi National. Now, for sure, maybe he’s complicit. Then again, maybe you’re complicit, or me. It’s not “news” to hurl wild claims, especially when those claims are roundly refuted by everyone in a position to know. Our forum readers rightly pointed to the case of Richard Jewell, who we were all sure was behind the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics — until we discovered he was innocent. And we were all just as certain that “they” — rather than a white American — bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City, and we’d probably still be sure of that had law enforcement not been both skilled and lucky.
I also felt the ad running on the NY Post's website apropos. Yes, Mr. Murdoch, we are talking about the reputation of your business today.
Some of us are writing, reading and thinking today that what visited us yesterday is what we routinely visit on innocents in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. I understand that view. I’m deeply ambivalent, because drones represent a new paradigm in warfare against an enemy who does not show himself. We have a lot of bad options from which to choose in defending this country. I vacillate deeply between the wholly unpalatable and the deeply abhorrent, and this is my binary choice. There is no good, third option I know of. At least not yet.
As a consequence, I must just live with my frustration at not yet knowing the perpetrator of yesterday's attack; with my ambivalence about a foreign policy that may be just or not, efficient or not, righteous or not; and that might require both my personal and our national introspection; but may in the end have nothing to do with this bombing. The one thing I hope is that my government act as it asks me to act: If I am to suspend judgment and not overreact angrily to this bombing, it should not either, in the form of a fresh set of 4th Amendment abridgments.
A lot of us I’m sure had the same thoughts: How cruelly ironic that so many of yesterday’s bombing victims lost legs and feet. We imagined — as we have before — what it would be like to lose limbs. We imagine this as we read stories of those who’ve lost limbs in combat, and imagine, “What if it was me? Would I have the strength to go on? Let alone try to run again!”
I imagine this whenever I’m at a function where the Challenged Athletes Foundation showcases what it does. I thought of that foundation’s heart and soul, Bob Babbitt, and it occurred to me that Bob is going to be busier today than he was day before yesterday. At times like this I really appreciate what Bob — and Virginia Tinley, and Jeffrey Essakow — had the vision and endurance to build, and I’m thankful we have this initiative as an outlet for our grief, so that we can do something.
Beyond supporting CAF, what is it I can actually do? I can’t find the perps. I can’t fight a war. I can’t change geopolitics, or gun politics, or religious mania, or whatever it is that is behind the unfathomable act committed. But I can run. I can enter. I can show up. We aren’t going to have fewer people at our marathons and triathlons as a result of yesterday. We’re going to have more. Because that’s our show of defiance. Once we, as a nation, recover from our shock, we’re going to lace up. And, if I still have some anger to burn off, I cannot imagine a more appropriate way.