NEW YORK, April 21, 2013 — This week’s events in Boston left me, like most of the nation, rattled and anxious. There was concern for the injured, maimed and killed, and a reminder of our sudden mortality. But it was a reminder of something more.
I was returned to September 11, 2001, when I was 17-years-old and sitting in US History class at the beginning of my senior year of high school. The later part of 2001 was both the literal and figurative end of my childhood, of innocence, of naivety, of feeling safe at all in the world. You think you’ve moved on past 9/11, and then something like Monday happens and, bam! You’re right back to that oh-so-fragile place of collective fear and sadness in the blink of an eye.
As adults we recognize that there is no such thing as true safety; there never was and never will be. But Monday morning I was surprised how quickly we can be thrust back to the familiar emotional place: fear, concern, and anxiety. A major city was locked down and paralyzed by one man and our uncertainty about what he might do.
Last night in Times Square we heard the announcement that the second suspect was finally found by Boston police in Watertown, and the energy on the street was … frantic, a palpable nervousness that has cropped up occasionally during my time in this city, most especially during the “Red” and “Orange Alert” days of the early 2000s.
Terrorism and religion seem to go together like peas and carrots, and that is tragic. However, given the historical precedent, it isn’t likely that my generation, or even a few after mine, will ever live in a world where this is not the case. We don’t yet know for sure what the motivations of the Tsarnaev brothers were, but it is likely that as more and more details emerge, it will turn out to have more than a little to do with religion. As comforting and joyful as religion can be, there is no way to deny this other emotion that it elicits in some people: hate; the kind of hate with no rational explanation.
I wish that one byproduct of this amazing global and technological age were a further coming together of different religions and beliefs rather than more and more polarization. But maybe it’s wrong to look at extreme but isolated incidents as indicative of reality. I truly wish it would stop, and I believe as a society we need to take a deep look at ourselves to try to understand why we are so violent. If religion has something to do with that, then we need to address it somehow.
As always, the questions are easier than the answers, but these are questions we should think about. If we collectively band together to think, what kind of possibilities could emerge? Some of this is already being done on forums like facebook and twitter, and as long as we’re all wasting time in virtual high school, why not come together to try and find solutions? There may be ways to keep our religious beliefs and fears from dividing us so much. I don’t have the answer yet, but if I ever do, I promise I’ll let you know in a status update or something.
I want to express my deepest sympathies and support to the good people of Boston and all of those unfortunately touched by that tragic day. I hope in whatever way they can, they find safety and peace.
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