What we do after tragedies

  • Like everyone else, my day was turned upside down yesterday by the news that two bombs had gone off at the Boston Marathon. On Facebook, people seemed to immediately want to say that they were feeling this event. They seem to want to send hugs.

    I don’t mean to be harsh. But this kind of response goes beyond just being trite. I’m not so horrible as to blame people for being artless at a time like that, but have we disNoPurpleRibbonconnected our brains? Sending Facebook fuzzy thoughts would work for a sad day or a friend’s bad news. But coming after a bombing, it’s as if we don’t want to do the hard work of dealing with this reality.


    Greg said something on Facebook last night that got a lot of Likes and Shares. At the risk of sounding too incestuous, I’m going to quote him:

    Just saw my first “wear purple tomorrow for Boston” FB meme image. Stoppit.

    Support might take the form of donating time, money or blood to those affected by this event. Support might even take the form of advocacy, if you passionately believe policy changes might keep something like this from happening again. And if you are a person of faith, then of course you believe prayer is support. (Whether *talking* about praying on FB is effective is another debate entirely.)

    Wearing purple is not an effective way of helping people impacted by today’s events. It’s just one more box to check off in an age when talking about being concerned and talking about taking action is confused with actually getting something done.

    I worry about us these days. I worry that we’re less and less able to identify and combat evil at just the time when we need to get better and better. We don’t like to find out that people do monstrous things, with only the mildest excuses. We’d rather find ways to turn everything into a kind of pre-processed spread, just another opportunity to leave teddy bears and send virtual hugs (which have no warmth and do nothing at all). We’d even rather try to redirect the focus into something political — the Sandy Hook shootings by an insane man have almost wholly been subverted into a blame-the-weapons campaign.

    Anything at all, rather than think that this is what we’re capable of, absent the love and fear of God.

5 Responses and Counting...

  • Photini 04.17.2013

    I agree! I was driving to a class about handguns when I heard the news on the radio. There has been so much talk about gun control lately, that I decided I wanted to go to a "First Steps – Pistol" class and see what I could learn from experts. Is this something I want to become more familiar with? As I heard the news I couldn't help but think that this is one place where a handgun would have been no help at all. When I got there, I had to fill in some paperwork and the TV was on in the classroom. It wasn't long before I could see that nothing new was being said – the same photos were being shown again and again.

    And then the speculations began. Suspect in custody! He's not a suspect! It was right wing extremists! It was Tax Day! (The only thing there that was accurate is that it was Tax Day, but what has that observation got to do with what we KNOW about the bombing at this point? NOTHING!)

    Yes, it was frightening. Yes, 3 people died. But like 9/11 it took over all the news. (I haven't turned on anything yet today to see if anything else has happened to steal the attention.)

    My husband was in the Army for over 30 years. I remembered during Desert Storm that the thing he'd told me before he left was that first reports are usually wrong. And the longer I live, the more I understand what he was saying then. In a few weeks/months we will know more – right now we only have a casualty count.

    In the meantime, there really isn't much we can do except either ban or require registration of all pressure cookers. That and remember that there really is EVIL in the world and we cannot on our own bring an end to it. Pray for our country, pray for our people, pray for God's mercy!

  • I know what you mean.
    I have been holding the people of Boston in my thoughts and prayers because that is the only thing I *can* do for them when I am on the wrong side of The Pond. I wish I could do something on a practical level……

  • That rush to find the bad guy(s) is another thing! Some of it is just our primitive Natural Man instincts ("Something bad! Am I safe? Am I safe??"), but it's very revealing who people WANT to blame. One of the unfortunate consequences of how ridiculously politicized everything has become is that who the culprit is will immediately be assessed in terms of how it hurts or helps an agenda. So THIS GUY at Salon.com is hoping it's a white American; hawks are probably hoping it's al Qaeda, etc. etc.

    I'm with you on the gun thing, BTW. I am generally neutral on the subject. But I'm becoming more interested in taking a class, putting in a little time at a shooting range, and maybe buying one. Perhaps that seems like a misguided impulse to some, but I'm a little wary of the extremism on the gun control side. (As you say, what are we going to do now, restrict purchases of pressure cookers? Bad people do bad things, and they'll use whatever's at hand to do it.)

    But most of all, ditto on the last part. Asking for prayers, asserting the power of prayer, talking about prayer may all be part of the simplified response that I was fussing about, but it's also, in the end, the very best we can do, if we pray like we mean it. Lord, have mercy on us and those we pray for.

  • That's just it — there really isn't anything for most of us to do. I was glad to see that there was an immediate posting in Boston of all the people offering room and board and whatever else they could to those affected. But outside of the immediate area, I don't know if there's anything to do but pray.

    By being a little critical of how pat it sounded to reach for Hallmark card expressions in the immediate wake of this tragedy, I absolutely don't mean to imply that saying "Let's pray for … " or "I'm praying for .." is wrong. I just saw some social media trends that looked so plastic that I felt like making a thing out of it. But personally, if I'm ever affected by something like this (God forbid!), I really, really hope that I will be liberally prayed for.

  • Belated addendum: "… on the wrong side of The Pond"? Are you kidding me? I *love* your side — one of my favorite places to go, and not just when I'm trying to get away from our problems. :-)

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