Cowardice and Heroism

NELSON-JIM-85I imagine that for most of us, the bombing in Boston on Monday provoked a wide range of thoughts and feelings.  For me, near the top was a deep and profound sadness.  How is it that someone would deliberately seek to harm innocent people, people standing in a street, waiting for family members and friends to finish a road race?  If the bombs were timed, why target runners near the end, the runners for whom this was probably a triumph just to finish, the regular people, people with their own courage and hopes. An eight year old boy died, waiting to see his father finish.

How can this be? What is it about us that lets such hatred or anger grow in us that we believe it is acceptable to sow such harm and terror, such evil?  What brings this about?  Why are humans capable of such gratuitous violence, such meaningless acts?  What is possibly accomplished by these kinds of things? Such sorrow for those lost and those harmed, but sorrow, too, that this is who we are.

I can only think that it begins when we think we are better than others, or that others are less than we are.  When we think only we are right, when belief gets in the way of tolerance.  It begins when principles or ideas become more important than real people.  It begins when we think rights matter more than responsibilities. There is too much violence around – the violence at the heart of guns, the violence at the heart of homophobia, the violence that would deny women ownership of their own body, the violence bred in patriarchy, the violence towards immigrants, the violence towards the poor, the violence in entertainment, the violence in professional sports (especially football!) the violence that dogma breeds, the violence of our language.

The best and the worst of us happened in Boston: cowardice in setting the bombs, heroism in those who responded to the injured. Which side am I on; which are you?

Boston is our UU city; it is our holy city, and so this carries a particular sorrow. It somehow seems so close to home. I have no answer other than what we affirm: the worth and dignity of every person, the rights of conscience, justice, equity and compassion, acceptance, respect.  The more they are practiced, the less violence there will be. And that would be a good thing.


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8 Responses to Cowardice and Heroism

  1. Robert Gotham says:

    I am confident that the terrorist(s) did not accomplish their primary goal – which had to be to leave a nation in steeped in fear. Instead, as this country has done historically when confronted with attacks, the country came together with unity, courage, and hope. I wish we could see that unanimity more often, not only in times of threat.

  2. Phoebe Conn says:

    I saw 42 this week and there’s a scene where a father and son are at a game where Jackie Robinson is playing. The father yells racial insults and the boy copies him. Then Peewee Reese goes out on the field and puts his arm around Jackie. Peewee was the son’s idol and the gesture stopped the kid cold. Parents need to love their children dearly and set a good example rather than spew hatred in their ears.

  3. Bob Barber says:

    You’ve got to be taught…carefully taught…

  4. Ann Petersen says:

    That last comment by Bob Barber says it all. I’ve always admired “South Pacific” for the courage to expose this sort of hatred and distrust of “others” so succinctly. And it makes me all the more grateful for our church which does so much to counteract this hatred.

    • Gordon Marion says:

      The question posed by Ann should be answered. If it is not answered, then we may expect that the situation that engendered the violence may result in more violence toward innocent victims. A short but seriously intended answer would require a long essay and might satisfy only a few. Each of us must find our own answer to the question This violence has political, cultural, and international implications. Start with that. Ask your own leading questions, e.g., why does President Obama send drones to the Eastern Hemisphere to kill suspected terrorists? Who and why do the terrorists want to kill?

      • I agree with Ann; I think I can smell the bacon Bob’s cooking, too. And while I’m about 98% pacifist, and while empiricism alone never really kept anyone warm at night, I wonder if we’ll EVER be without violence. I hope so. But this drone stuff is destructive idiocy of course, I don’t care what information the Prez has that I don’t have: this is ridiculous in the key of inhuman.

        Like Ann, I admire the message of South Pacific, only I would go to my favorite song from my favorite musical: “Oliver.” The song: “Consider Yourself” …

        “Consider yourself at home
        Consider yourself one of the family
        We’ve taken to you so strong
        It’s clear we’re going to get along.”

        Rig up a stereo and huge speakers to one of Obama’s drones and fly that over those countries and see what happens. And don’t keep it secret.

      • Gordon Marion says:

        The point of applying analysis to a problem like terrorism is to study the dynamics of the situation in order to get at the root causes. Failure to do so is to sit and wait for a recurrence as with earthquakes and tornados. Fortunately both science, i.e. rational thinking, and the teachings of the
        sages (The Golden Rule) through the millennia provide us with ways of working on problems of human behavior. But we don’t do the work. We just cry WHY? WHY? WHY? That’s a dead-end unless rational answers are sought. There are people who chronically blame others and bad luck for their dissatisfaction with their lives. Then there are people who seek to discover their own responsibility for things that go wrong. They ask “What could I have done differently?” These people tend to follow a pretty successful path in life. The obvious point here is that as a nation we must take responsibility for what happens to us. The dynamics of the Boston Marathon bombing
        are becoming clear as the background information unfolds. The dynamics of 9/11 should be clear to those whose thinking is not clouded by beliefs. As suggested by Chris, follow one of Obama’s drones and see what happens. We all know that violence begets violence. We use it more than anybody. Do we think that folks over there will just say “Aw, shucks! Why, why, why?”

  5. Gordon Marion says:

    What are your thoughts regarding our drone activity over Pakistan, Yemen, and Som

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