Confronted with an insane insanity such as Monday’s bombing of the Boston Marathon, our immediate reaction tends to be an initial gut-punching shock followed by a flood of questions. Who would do this? How many people are hurt? Are the people I know safe? Is the danger over now? What went wrong? Was this domestic or international? Sophisticated or amateur? Planned or spur of the moment? And, above all the others: Why?
Why would somebody plan and execute such evil? Why would anybody want to visit such indiscriminate brutality upon children and innocents? Why wasn’t this person or persons stopped before the bombs went off? Why did this happen?
Unfortunately, while we have received answers already to some of our questions, compiling the answers to the most vexing will be a painstaking task of deliberate and methodical investigation, not a process given to quick results. And so we wait, while the TV news plays the same videos over and over, and verified details trickle out bit by bit. Into this vacuum of confirmed and hard facts rushes a torrent of rumors, speculation, worry and half-truths.
Without new details, the talking heads and pundits fill columns and websites and airtime with their best guesses on the answers to the questions we’re all wondering about. Perhaps the white smoke indicates a smaller bomb that signals an amateur attempt. Maybe no group has taken credit because it was a lone wolf attack. Perhaps we haven’t yet found all the bombs. Perhaps this was the work of Islamic extremists. Maybe, because it came near the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing and the Waco, Texas, tragedy, it was the work of right-wing extremists. Maybe it was something altogether new.
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It’s important in this period of uncertainty to avoid jumping to conclusions. We Americans are people of action. When somebody punches us in the face, we want to strike back, and strike back quickly and with overwhelming force. The scum who attacked us at 2:50 Monday afternoon deserve no less. But the first step is finding out for sure who they are.
Our trust now lies in the capable hands of the many investigatory bodies probing this horror: the Boston police, FBI, ATF, Homeland Security and many more. We doubt answers will come quickly. Some may never come, and even if they do, they will never bring back the lives lost. But we have faith in the dedication of our nation’s protectors and have no doubt that everything that can possibly be done is already being done.
In the meantime, we can offer no better words than comedian Patton Oswalt, who wrote the following Monday night on his Facebook page, a message that has since spread throughout the Internet:
“I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.
“But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.
“But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
“So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, ‘The good outnumber you, and we always will.’”