I’ve spent the last week in the desert on spring break with my kids. I was hoping to come home and write about our glorious family bonding experiences there, but the world had other plans in store.
Getting details about what happened in Boston in a remote place was hard. My first clue that something had happened was the flag at our campground set to half-staff. I stole away and listened to the radio in our rental car to get snippets and understand what was going on. We wanted to know, but didn’t want the kids to hear it until we could explain it clearly.
When I got close enough to internet access I was able to read Dennis Lehane’s searing editorial, written in the immediate aftermath of the bombing, before the authorities had even begun their lightning-quick manhunt. In the piece he says, “I’m not used to feeling so limited when it comes to expressing myself, but trying to explain an act of mass murder to a 4-year-old rendered me as close to speechless as I can remember being.”
I wanted to tell him: join the club. I’ve been explaining terrorist acts to my children their whole lives. We’ve had too many bad things to explain. I don’t remember dealing with this as a child, and have no blueprint for how to proceed.
I spent half a hike down a breathtakingly beautiful canyon in Arches National Park, where I was seeking solace from the stress of the news, being peppered with questions from my son about 9/11, terrorists, and how could the Boston guys be connected to Bin Laden, and wait, you mean there is terror all around the world? It’s not just some guy in Pakistan who we caught and now that’s all over and done with?
Being so far out of the news cycle was a blessing for us because we could explain what happened on our own terms and in our own time. I can only imagine all the parents on lockdown Friday, trying to keep a brave face for their children.
The good news is, even in the far-away towns of Moab, Green River, and Salt Lake City, people cared. I used to live out west and – not to make sweeping generalizations – but folks out there don’t always take kindly to “back east.” But this time I came home with a sense of comradeship and caring.
Later in the week we stayed in a hotel, and in the breakfast room there were no less than four tv screens blaring the news at us while we tried to eat. I asked the mothers of the other families sitting there if they minded me changing the channel. They all said, “Please do.” Not because they didn’t care, but because they too wanted to shield their children from the onslaught of terror coverage while trying to plan out their day.
In our case that meant getting on a plane, and my sons worrying not about crashing or turbulence or getting lost, but terrorism. I didn’t point out the bomb-sniffing dog I saw as soon as we entered the airport, but just kept reassuring them, “We’re not in a place that would be targeted.”
In their moments of fear, I tell them that going on means having faith, as we’ve had to do so many times in the course of their short lives. One of the first responses I heard to the news was that now we finally know what it feels like to live in a country where violence can happen anywhere, any time. Life today means sharing that burden with people around the world who we haven’t connected with on that level before.
In the midst of the chaos, the senate shamefully, egregiously, voted down a gun reform bill. Once again another author, Gabrielle Giffords in this case, spoke to this news far better than I can hope to.
Were those senators grateful for the distraction of another act of senseless violence and terror while they voted against protecting us from further senseless violence and terror? My money’s on yes, they damn well were.
All the sad news rung in my ears as I read this Facebook post from a friend, and I leave you with it:
“Arkansas State Representative Nate Bell tweeted, ‘I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a high-capacity magazine?’
I’d like to answer that: Probably none. Believe it or not, we Boston liberals slept just fine, thank you. Unlike you, we don’t need a gun by our side to feel unafraid. Unlike you, apparently, we know that no gun, no matter how powerful, would have done a bit of good in preventing the Boston Marathon bombing. Do you really believe that guns would have given you, or anyone else, the prescience to know that these kids were going to plant bombs? And if it had been so, what would you have done? Shot two people in the middle of a huge crowd of spectators?
I slept fine last night, even without a gun by my side, and I’ll tell you why. Because I saw how our law enforcement agents and elected officials responded immediately to a crisis, taking extraordinary measures to protect the public, to bring the bombers to justice, and to assure people that everything possible was being done to keep us safe…In short, I saw how civilization triumphed over evil, how a rational, coordinated effort limited the potential loss of human life. I saw how my city, which I, as a transplant, have often seen as cold, unfriendly and uncaring, pulled together in a way I would have thought unimaginable, with a sense of common purpose that even now brings tears to my eyes. I saw how this common effort prevented further loss of life. I don’t need a gun. If you think that your firearms would have made you any safer in our situation, you’re entitled to your opinion. But don’t assume we share it. We happen to believe that there are stronger protections than lethal weapons. Mr. Bell, Wayne LaPierre, Alex Jones and other gun worshippers, maybe you would cower in your homes if you didn’t have firearms by your sides. We Boston liberals are made of stouter stuff than that.” – Brian Folkins-Amador