As a former Boston resident and partner to a frequent Boston marathoner, I’m devastated tonight. My thoughts are with those who were injured, their families, Boston residents, selfless first responders, and members of the running community. I don’t even know what to say to them, except “Tell us what you need. It’s yours.”
I don’t understand why someone would murder and maim people who build a loving community, who celebrate a great city and a historical event, who want nothing more than to be and do their best.
But I’m getting mired in the pain and the ugly and the fear. So I want to step back for a moment to something that has always bothered me about the way in which we discuss tragedy.
Please, please understand this comes from a soulful place of love, empathy, and concern. I am not being sarcastic, I’m not joking, and I’m not in any way minimizing.
Why do we react so much more intensely when the dead include children? Reports keep singling out the injury reports of children and the death of a child as though killing a child is worse than killing an adult.
Is it? Are we actually assigning children more worth than adults?
I know that I was affected at a much more visceral level hearing that one of the dead was so young. So heartbreakingly young.
But the other people who died were much younger than they were supposed to die, too.
Believe me, I find the details of those children treated for major injuries horrifying. I’m a mother. The thought of any children being hurt in any way actually keeps me awake at night. I am sick at the thought of a child hurt in a bomb blast.
But I’m just as sick to think of someone’s father being hurt in a bomb blast. Someone’s sister. Someone’s boyfriend. Someone’s mentor, sponsor, lover, friend, colleague…I’m sick about every person hurt, every limb removed, every death.
But I’m asking, in terms of our use of rhetoric, our telling of stories, our accepted morality that says it’s worse to intentionally hurt a child: why do we focus on the children?
I understand completely why it’s not okay to hurt people, and why it’s reprehensible to hurt a child. But if we’re talking mass casualties, if we’re talking bomb blast that kills indiscriminately, why do we focus on the dead child more intensely than the other dead people?
Children don’t know the extent to which some evil really creeps; they don’t know Holocaust or slavery or war or torture. They don’t know. So their early end is somehow more horrible? I feel that, but I don’t understand it logically.
Is it because children are innocent? Most citizens of most countries around the world, it seems to me, are pretty innocent. (But wait, my heart says, children are way more innocent.)
Is it because children have their whole lives ahead of them? Most marathoners and their family and friends, it seems to me, have a whole lot of life left, too. (But wait, my head reminds me, children have more life left.)
Is it because children are so desperately loved? Most fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, friends, aunts, uncles…you get the picture…it seems to me, are pretty dearly loved, too. (But wait, whispers my soul, children are loved more completely and unconditionally. I hope.)
Is it because children can’t protect themselves? Most people moving past or standing near a hidden bomb, it seems to me, can’t protect themselves, which is, of course, the point to the horrible, disgusting people who did this.
Is it because there is a greater shock value to a child’s injuries and death? I swear I’m not trying to be cynical, but do reporters focus on the bomb shrapnel in boys and girls because we’re all so horrified that we keep reading? Tell the story of a runner, of a bystander, but really push hard on the story of a child because that story makes us gasp out loud? Maybe. I did gasp out loud for that eight-year-old.
Is it because children aren’t supposed to die? Is that the core of this? That with each year of life we’re getting closer to dying, but that it’s just horrifically, stomach-turningly shocking to hear that an eight-year-old was killed?
Or, say, 26 first graders?
I don’t understand the disgusting malice that would make someone build, plant, and detonate a bomb. I don’t. I don’t understand the sociopathology that would make someone disregard human or animal life. I don’t. I don’t understand where we’re supposed to go from here, as a nation and as world citizens. I don’t understand how people all over the world deal with frequent deadly attacks.
And I don’t understand why it’s an eight-year-old’s murder at a sporting event is so much worse than an adult’s murder at a sporting event.
But there’s a little piece of me that feels that it is.
It’s not fair to the families of the injured and dead in a terrible tragedy, and I hate saying it for the illogic it suggests, but I’m pretty sure injured and killed children wrench more than anything else. A child’s life is not worth more than anyone else’s. But somehow their death cuts more deeply.
What do you say?