I have been on the road — I’ll tell you more about that in another post — and as in the case when I travel, access to news is limited.
When I heard about the explosions in Boston, I contacted my friends Charlie and Ann, who live there. Charlie assured me that they were okay. He was, in fact, flying back from D.C. My daughter Ashley, who was also traveling with me, contacted her husband, who works at a running clinic in Washington State. My son-in-law’s boss was running the Boston Marathon. Ashley knew he would be with the pack of runners at the front of the run so she thought he would be okay, given the news we did get about the timing of the explosions, and he was.
When I did reach a time and place when I could learn more about what happened in Boston, the first picture I came across was a photo of a woman on bended knee praying.
And then the second image I came across was this one.
The first news I ingested about the marathon was in print form. It was the story of the death of eight-year old Martin Richard and the injuries sustained by his mother and younger sister. The story stated that the mom suffered brain injuries while the daughter lost a leg in the attack.
Severed limbs was how the print journalists described the scene.
I don’t know what you think of when you here the term severed limbs but I always, always, always think of Vietnam.
One of the things they teach in college rhetoric courses is that meanings of words are embedded in people, not in the word themselves. Words are packed with visual imagery based upon our experiences. For many, the term severed limbs will induce imagery of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. For those who work in law enforcement or medical professionals, it will undoubtedly invoke an image of car wrecks.
A friend whose family is from Boston texted me last night: Why? she asked.
Why is the question we always ask in the wake of tragedy.
It is human nature to ask that question. It’s almost as if we could find a rationale answer to the whys of tragedies then we could work the equation and stop the tragedies.
We Americans are hard-wired to work the equation.
Walk into any bookstore and check out the self-help section. Whatever your problem, there is a book that guarantees it will help readers work the equation. Not to discount those books, some things can be helped by working the equation.
But the sort of thing that happened in Boston this week cannot be fixed by a self-help book.
We will undoubtedly figure out the who behind the explosion.
We will undoubtedly figure out a plan of action to take against those responsible.
Talking heads have already taken to the air waves, drawing comparisons between the explosions in Boston and those in New York on 9-11. They have interviewed Muslims to talk about their fears of being targeted as a result of people’s fears and anger. (Wonder does it ever occur to media that following up news stories about such explosions by interviewing Muslims is in itself contributing to certain ugly stereotypes of terrorists and terrorism?)
I texted back the only thing I know for sure about the Boston bombing.
I spoke to a woman earlier this year who said she had never formed any thoughts about the existence of evil in the world. I’ve never been privileged to live in such a sheltered state myself.
Mostly due to Vietnam, I guess.
I have grown up enough to realize that some wars are preventable. Vietnam was one of them. So the death and destruction that came from that war was the result, in large part, due to certain someones pursuing selfish ambition, which is a form of evil. I suppose all wars start from that seed of selfish ambition. Certainly that was the case for Hitler.
We don’t talk much about evil in America anymore.
Bush kind of ruined it for us when he assigned the term evil-doers to his hand-picked enemies.
I have my fair share of people who don’t like me. I don’t go around calling them evil-doers. I don’t think of them in terms of evil at all. I think of them as people who don’t like me for whatever reason. Sometimes, when I get upset with one of them, I may think that the ugly thoughts I harbor in my own heart are evil but I don’t think of that person as evil.
But there are people I do think of as evil. The man who murdered Karly Sheehan acted out of evil. I believe that wholeheartedly. There is simply no other explanation for the torture and murder that cost Karly her life other than evil. At some point in his life, Shawn Field decided to let evil has its way with him.
We all sin (another word that has lost favor with Americans). So in a sense we all are co-conspirators in evil. But the bulk of us cannot fathom murdering a child, whether by beating, as was the case with Karly Sheehan, or by constructing a bomb that would sever the legs of a child or worse kill a child, as was the case with Martin Richard.
That’s because we do not make evil a daily practice.
Most of us are going about our days fighting the good fight.
We are trying to do right by others. We purpose each day to live life more fully, to care more deeply, to speak more kindly, to live more selflessly.
We purpose to oppose the evil that sometimes seems to flank us on all sides. And even when we are walking among a bloody field of severed limbs, among the dead and wounded, we cry out for a win over evil. We fall to bended knee and pray for it.
We seem to be confused lately though about who it is exactly we are fighting against.
Evil didn’t just come about as the result of atoms exploding mid-air. Evil has a creator. A great designer. Peter warns about the source of the evil that exists among us: Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
My generation made a joke out of the Devil. We turned him into a weenie dressed in a red-leotard carrying an oversized dinner-fork.
But the proof that the Devil exists is no joking matter. Evil abounds all around us.
The Devil is planning our destruction as we go about trying to fight the good fight. Ask any good soldier. They will tell you — you can’t possibly win a war until you understand who your enemy really is.
It doesn’t help to think of everyone as our enemy.
And it doesn’t help to ignore that we have an enemy.
We must first identify the enemy and develop a plan of action.
We will eventually learn the names of those responsible for the Boston bombing but let’s not let that misguide us. The real mastermind behind the bombing is the Evil One himself.
And praying is the exact right response.
We should all fall to bended knee and cry out for help from God daily. Because if Boston and New York teach us anything it’s that our enemy is fierce and his followers are growing in numbers.
If we expect to win the good fight, we must resolve to be more of everything our enemy is not.