Over the days and now weeks since the bombing of the Boston Marathon I have heard conversations questioning whether violence like this is some kind of “new normal” — that we will have to learn to live with the possibility of an entire city shut down, with SWAT Teams searching neighborhoods, helicopters hovering overhead, armored personnel carriers cruising the streets and the sound of controlled detonations.
Others have promised to eventually get to the bottom of the bombing, to find out why.
Yet there’s no reason why, no motive or crazy cause that can ever explain something as horrible, as senseless, as evil as that action —perhaps nothing but evil.
It doesn’t matter if it’s political, if it’s religious, if it’s some social malcontent or mental illness – it cannot really be understood by rational, moral human beings. It can only be categorized as evil. It fails understanding and falls in that disturbing realm of horror inhabited by holocausts and ethnic cleansing, mass murder, rape and terrorism. There is no justification or meaning, and we cannot allow it to be any kind of “normal.”
Though we may be traumatized, we do have choices. We have choices about what our “new normal” can be. As I watched the videos on that Marathon Monday I was struck, as I’m sure you were, by those who ran toward the blast, those who ran to the wounded, tearing off T-shirts to use as tourniquets, cradling victims in their arms until the EMT’s arrived. There were folks along the race route who reached out to runners and brought them into their homes, those who gave whatever solace and comfort they could not just in the minutes following this awful event, but in the hours and days that followed.
Acts of terror will not succeed whatever the twisted intention or evil purpose, if we run toward one another, if we respond with compassion rather than fear, and if we reaffirm our connection one to another rather than react in isolation and separation. That can be the new normal; not just in abnormal circumstances or times of crisis, but in normal times. That’s how we triumph over terror, that’s how good defeats evil, that’s how we overcome fear. It’s the new normal that makes us MORE human rather than succumbing to acts intended to de-humanize us.
Two nights later, at the Bruins game, something happened that was not normal: the entire crowd at the TD Garden sang the national anthem.
My friend was watching the game in his usual seat at his favorite bar, something happened there that was not normal – everyone in the bar stood and sang along with the crowd.
That’s not normal, but maybe it’s an indication a of something new, a new normal, people affirming their membership in a community, a community that stands for compassion and connection, a country that, despite all of our differences, continues to truly stand for liberty and justice for all.
No bomb can blast that away, and acts of terror can only take that away if we allow it If we allow it to become the new normal.
We can choose to make the new normal be connection, community, compassion — and in honor of little Martin Richard and the other victims – we can chose to stop hurting people and live in peace.
The Rev. Michael Duda is a Rockport resident and pastor of the First Church in Wenham; he can be reached through http://www.firstchurchwenham.org/