I was scrubbing the dishes this evening, hot steam rising up from the sink, when I realized what was getting to me. Earlier I had been mind-wandering on Facebook and looked at some posts of friends and some videos. I had felt a gnawing anxious pit in my stomach, and still, a half hour later, it was lingering. The article, photos, and videos I’d watched were of the people the FBI is now searching for, the suspected perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing. Over 17,000 people had “liked” and “shared” these photos & videos via Facebook alone, and the FBI is clearly asking that people do that, to spread the word, to gather tips.
But I know I don’t know those people, pictured and shown. I knew it the minute I saw the images. Really I was 99.99% certain I didn’t know them days ago, so why did I even look at the link? And why did I then click on the article, the press release, and the video clips? What sucked me (and 17,000 other people) in? I’m so glad I don’t have TV or live with someone who watches the evening news; I’m already so affected by the stories and the photographs I glance at in the newspaper. What can I tell from the photos and videos? They look like two ordinary young men who might live in Boston, to me. They are somebody’s sons.
I’m grateful that our kid isn’t old enough to know anything about all the tragedies of this week—the Boston Marathon bombing, the Senate’s rejection of any progress on gun control, the fire and explosion in West, Texas. I’m not a pollyanna enough to think that there won’t be plenty of disturbing events when she is old enough to understand and ask us about them, but I’m grateful that that time has not come yet. I still have time to sort out my own feelings in the quiet sanctuary of my heart and head. I still have time to clear my mind and have a cup of tea and, once she’s asleep, sit someplace peaceful and sort through my thoughts.
What came to me while I was washing dishes, what helped loosen the knot in my stomach, is my clarity that I just seem to see things differently than our country’s leaders, differently even than some of my neighbor friends. Understanding my own reaction and knotted stomach helps me breathe again. What I realized—what I remembered—is that I just don’t believe in good versus evil. My reaction to seeing the photos is not “good, I hope they go get them.” I would not be able to say, as President Obama said on Monday evening, that “any responsible individuals…will feel the full weight of justice.” It’s not that I don’t believe in justice, nor that I don’t recognize the awful pain that has been caused and that continues to reverberate throughout the Boston area and beyond. But the way that Obama’s statement has been taken out of the context of his larger, thoughtful reflection and made into the slogan of what is now a nationwide manhunt just sickens me. I don’t want to be a part of that manhunt. There are people whose job it is to find the people who did this horrible thing. It is not my job. I do not, I will not, be brought along into this manhunt. I do not trust us as a nation of people who will respond carefully. We are all still learning, still growing up, still figuring out how to be civil in a world where terrorist acts are familiar to so many people in other countries but something we just don’t expect here; for better and for worse, we have not learned how to respond calmly to terrorist acts in our own country. As Amy Davidson wrote in The New Yorker this week: “It is at these moments that we need to be most careful, not least.” Our national conversation about “good vs. evil” is so immature, so colored by Star Wars, Disney, the Lone Ranger, cowboy Westerns and reality TV.