Got home from work yesterday and there was chaos on television.
My very first thought was that North Korea had actually bombed themselves with their brand new missile. Amy caught me up. Explosions at the Boston Marathon. Then NBC showed the footage, over and over, red and orange and smoke and people blown apart.
I didn't want to open Facebook, usually on my top screen, because I knew what I'd see: sympathy at first, then outrage and then the conspiracy theories, all tumbling over each other. Lots of "thoughts and prayers" and "hopes" for the injured. Lots of outrage over this new horror that some humans inflicted on a great mass of other humans.
The calling for blood didn't take long. The very first one I read was, surprisingly, unrelated to Islamic extremism, but focused squarely on other Americans. The bombs went off in Boston, site of the great original Tea Party, on Tax Day, during a marathon whose last mile was dedicated to the victims of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre. The American political ideologists known as "Tea Partiers" MUST have done this! To protest taxes, and their fears that the Second Amendment is being removed, that their guns will be taken away, that Obama has installed himself as a dictator.
Then came the other side, calling it a smoke screen of hatred from the Liberals. Everyone knows that Liberals hate America and all it stands for.
Then a CNN reporter got us all back on track, calling for the worldwide killing of all Muslims.
Outrage at horror is natural. So is finger-pointing because, in helpless situations beyond your control, blaming FEELS like you're doing something. It actually does feel like helping. The police are so busy restoring order, maybe they need our input. "Look at this person, look at that one!" A burning sensation in your gut is much better than feeling like you're tied down and defenseless.
For more than a decade, we've been a Nation of Rage. Impotent Rage, but rage nonetheless. We are all dogs behind a glass door, barking at the mailman.
It took a Mr. Rogers meme -- "look for the helpers" -- and a post from Patton Oswalt to put things in perspective for me:
Boston. Fucking horrible.
I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, "Well, I've had it with humanity."
But I was wrong. I don't know what's going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.
But here's what I DO know. If it's one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness.
But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, "The good outnumber you, and we always will."
Because, before I could even allow myself to take in the reality, I saw people running towards the explosions. Some, knocked over by the blast, took cover first, then instinctively ran to help. And not just the people in their uniforms, but those in civilian clothes, who had been, seconds ago, enjoying the day, and were responding to other people in danger.
I'm numb to the acts of sociopaths. I have no personal reactions to these seemingly increasing numbers of tragedies. Sandy Hook and Aurora, Colorado - I felt nothing but growing blackness, then disgust at the people politicizing tragedy. And that was my initial reaction to the Boston footage. But watching people rush to the aid of others, actually witnessing it instead of reading about it later, it caused my arthritic, shriveled hope to jump a little. And Oswalt's post put that jump into words for me, because quite frankly, I didn't recognize the hope when I felt it.
The next few days are going to be horrible. And I'm under no illusion of what our government is or should be. If this was indeed an hysterical response to what political paranoids see as the "New World Order", well congratulations, you just held the door and ushered it in.
If this was an attack from a different nationality or "just" an act of yet another lone psychopath -- whatever actually happened, the fallout is going to be massive but nothing is really going to change. More inconvenience, more governmental control, and a new spate of circular arguments of safety vs. liberty. Guns will not be confiscated and mental health care will still go unaddressed and unfunded. The bomb will be found to have been made with some household chemical and we'll all have to sign forms and get fingerprinted every time we buy Clorox. Something like that. That'll fix everything.
So I have to focus on the people who rushed into danger. The helpers. I'm married to a helper. Amy is always the first on the scene of a fall, a wreck. If something bad happens in her field of vision, she rushes to help and comfort. I've witnessed this dozens of times over the years, while I usually feel inconvenienced and ashamed.
I'm not going to join in the finger-pointing or in any of the conspiracy reindeer games. I'm going to read and keep up and listen and not feel much of anything. I'm going to acknowledge personal tragedy: that it always takes an act of horror to remind me that the good people, the helpers, outnumber the monsters. But now I have those words to keep in mind when the monsters, given particularly loud voice on the internet, show their faces. The helpers are the white blood cells of the Earth and the monsters the cells who've gone bad.
And I will attempt to believe, with all my heart, that the good is the majority.