Remember when the Boston marathon was attacked a couple of years ago? Remember how we all panicked and acted like screechy wussbabies and targeted a bunch of innocent people who had nothing to do with the bombings and hid in our basements, getting on social media to tell everyone we have to carpet-bomb and then invade Muslim countries because we are military geniuses on par with Sun fucking Tzu?
That’s right, you instead remember a city responding with strength and resolve. You remember Bostonians, who are total assholes 90% of the time, suddenly displaying a dignity and courage you never would have expected from the same group of people who, on the loss of a center fielder, whined endlessly on sports shows as if the reanimated corpse of George Steinbrenner had just removed one of their testicles and eaten it on live television.
You remember Bostonians going to work, crowding the T and Commuter Rail. You remember us dodging armored vehicle convoys in the street, finding ways around Copley to get to offices and appointments. We did it all week while those jackholes were still at large. Because “fuck those guys,” was the attitude. The only day we didn’t show up for work was on Friday when they told us to get off a packed train into town because the cops were pinning down Dzhokhar. But we were all going in. “Fuck those guys,” to reiterate.
Tuesday I heard a newscaster saying how the marathon bombing had “paralyzed the city for a week.” The fuck it did. I had to stand in line behind a fully-jacked SWAT team to get a goddamed tuna sub, but we were all there. Everyone. We had a vendor coming in from Manhattan to have a meeting we probably could have delayed or done remotely but we kept the engagement. And the Manhattan people didn’t ask to reschedule. They came up on the Acela and even though I’d never met them they emailed to say, “we’ll still be there on the 17th if you guys will.” Damn straight. I’m not a solider. My job is not particularly important to the day-to-day functioning of society, I don’t save lives and I don’t keep the lights on. But maintaining our cool and doing the right thing was all of our duty and we did it.
I’m wondering this week what happened to that city.
We didn’t say “no refugees” back then, even though the guys who attacked us had come here seeking asylum in 2002. We’re supposed to be the “smart state” and we seemed to know after the actual bombing here that there’s no more or less risk among screened refugees than there are from people born here. We asked thoughtful questions about radicalization, the shifting dynamics of warfare and America’s leadership role in the world which Boston, a city smaller than fucking Memphis, or El Paso or freaking Jacksonville Florida, gets to help define. Because we are tough and smart and punch above our weight. Or we used to, anyway.
Spoiler Alert: This is the 21st century and people are going to get killed by terrorists.
Yep, that’s the reality. No politician will say it, but that’s the truth. Sorry. The same global open communication and travel networks that allow us to lead 21st century lives are the same tools these human-shaped bags of rat feces can use to hurt and kill us. There is no way to completely stop them without hurting ourselves in the process. It’s like cancer- it’s too much like us to kill easily. The best we can do is try and prevent it and cut it out when we find it.
The not dying of smallpox or getting polio part of being in the 21st century makes it a pretty good deal though, on balance. Today you’re more likely to be killed in a car crash or fireworks or setting your own house ablaze on account of being a dumbass or by effing cows (who kill 108 people a year in the United States), than from terrorists. But the sad reality is people are going to get killed. We can take actions to prevent and minimize it, but nothing can fully prevent it. Like car crashes, shark attacks and people being hit by trains; some small number of our fellow citizens, maybe people we know and love, maybe even us, are going to be killed by terrorists. Fact.
So what do we do then?
Don’t be idiots and do what the terrorists want. Don’t listen to people trying to use fear to increase their own power, whether that’s fucking ISIS or our own presidential candidates, both of whom are desperate for attention. Don’t give it to them. Don’t advocate cruelty against large groups of people who aren’t responsible. I’m the first to say the Islamic supporters of these radical movements have to be harshly dealt with- especially elements inside places like Saudi Arabia and Qatar- who are the funding head of the ISIS snake. But anyone who’s ever traveled overseas knows our government can do some shitty stuff, but most people in the rest of the world can separate citizenry from leadership. They don’t treat Americans badly because they know I personally didn’t make the call to invade Iraq or back Noriega. We need to be like this as well. We need to show some backbone and not be scared even when there is risk, which is almost always slight. Don’t be stupid, but don’t be a coward either.
I want strong, smart Boston back. I’m ashamed at the difference between how brave we were in the face of a real threat and how pants-shitty we get around nominal threats like Ebola and the Paris attacks. Pull it together, Boston.
We’re better than this.