Two bombs went off today at the Boston Marathon killing three people, one of whom was an eight year old boy. News reports say that around 113 were injured, some with severe injuries including loss of limb. The story is still unfolding.
The attacks happened within yards of the Boston Public Library, the embodiment of everything that an act of terrorism is not. The Boston Public Library is the oldest public library in the USA, open to all of the citizens of Boston. It stands for education, for free thought and free inquiry, for law and government by the consent of the governed, for public service, for accountability, for helping people to find their own way in life, and to make up their lives as they go along, for community based on mutual respect and mutual assistance.
This act of violence today is about terror and intimidation, about arbitrary power and compulsion. Acts of violence like this are not acts of strength, but confessions of weakness, that whatever ideological or doctrinal cause this was meant to serve finds so little success through legitimate means of contention and consensus that the true believers must resort to desperate and violent means in order to conquer.
I send my prayers and thoughts to all of the people of Boston, and stand with them in solidarity in this time of terrible trial
Thinking this morning of a point on which Pascal and Montaigne agreed:
Men never do evil so willingly and so happily as when they do it for the sake of conscience. --Pascal
When they try to become angels, men become beasts. --Montaigne
One of the best people I know, Barbara Crafton, wrote this letter to the perpetrators on Facebook this morning:
MESSAGE TO THE BOSTON MARATHON BOMBER
On a good day for running, with the race over for some and others still in it, Martin Richard runs to hug his victorious father at the finish line. No, his dad didn't finish first, but the little guy knows that everybody who finishes a marathon is a winner.
His mom is snapping pictures. His baby sister is with her. He is so proud of his dad, who has just run more than 26 miles. 26 miles! Martin is eight years old. Maybe he will run a marathon, too, when he grows up.
But he won't. He won't even make it to nine. Someone who never met him or his parents or his little sister has stolen his life away from him and from them. And from us. Martin's mom is terribly injured, too. His baby sister has lost one of her legs. Trembling with fatigue from the race, Bill Richard got about three seconds of pure joy before this became the worst day of his life.
People come from all over the world to run this race. They come by the thousands. It's a genial affair, a great festival of mutual admiration, preceded by a famous pasta supper the night before for runners and volunteers: lean marathoners tucking into great plates of penne and lasagna -- 800 pounds of each are prepared, along with 400 gallons of sauce, 600 pounds of meatballs and 200 pounds of mozzarella. I don't know who did this or, why, but whoever it was thinks he's accomplished something good for his cause. Name me a political cause that will be furthered by the sacrifice of this little boy. Let alone all the injured, the others who died. Name me a cause that violence has aided. Name me just one. Because I'm not coming up with anything.
I do know one thing: when violence and death visited the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, it seemed to some of us that the games could not go on. But they did go on, and they continue still: the world pauses appreciatively to watch the best of the best compete, fair and square. That terrorist attack accomplished nothing for the Palestinian cause but to engender suspicion of it, distracting attention from its legitimate longing for justice. When Timothy McVeigh reduced the Murrah Federal Building to rubble, taking 168 men, women and children with it, he did not succeed in rallying the rest of us to his cause, as he seems to have thought he would. We recoiled from him. The 9/11 attacks did nothing to engender world support for radical Islamism or anti-Americanism, although the two wars in which we have engaged since then have: the expectation that they would make the world "safer" was pure fantasy. They have further endangered all of us, at the cost of a quarter million human lives.
You, who set those bombs along Boyleston Street, whoever you are, listen up: I don't know what your cause is, but your violence isn't going to win it. It will get you exactly the opposite of whatever it is you want.
Sadly, I think that whoever did this just doesn't care. He doesn't care about Martin or his dad or his mom, or about anyone else killed or injured in the attack. As far as he is concerned, they are all a necessary sacrifice or collateral damage. To the bomber, and to all like him, people are nothing more than a means to an end.
This letter is testimony to Barbara Crafton's greatness of soul and generosity that she is determined to see and appeal to the humanity of the attackers, who don't believe that anyone has any intrinsic worth like "humanity."
Martin Richard who was killed yesterday
It's hard to look at this photo, but there is real greatness here:
The young man just lost both of his legs in the blast. His name is Jeff Bauman. He was on the sidelines waiting for his girlfriend to finish the race when the blast hit. The man in the hat who pulled Bauman to safety and stopped the bleeding so he could be moved is Carlos Arrredono who just happened to be walking by. Neither of these men knew each other.
Dr. Rieux resolved to compile this chronicle, so that he should not be one of those who hold their peace but should bear witness in favor of those plague-stricken people; so that some memorial of the injustice and outrage done to them might endure; and to state quite simply what we learn in time of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in men than to despise.
Nonetheless, he knew that the tale he had to tell could not be of one final victory. It could only record of what had had to be done. and assuredly would have to be done again in the never ending fight against terror and its relentless onslaughts, despite their personal afflictions, by all who, while unable to be saints but refusing to bow down to pestilences, strive to their utmost to be healers.
--Albert Camus, from The Plague