An explosion went off in Boston Monday. Three people were killed. Close to 200 more were hurt or maimed. That’s about the extent of what we can factually say about what happened toward the end of the Boston Marathon.
As soon as the news of the explosion came out Monday, people across the country started wildly speculating and making ugly accusations. On Facebook, I unfriended and blocked several people because of such nastiness. One faction claimed the entire thing was a “false flag” operation by the U.S. government. (Multiple Facebook groups were set up to make the claim, including this one.) Many people pointed to Middle Eastern terrorists. Still others, including an analyst on CNN, warned of “right wing extremists.”
It seemed that everyone had a political point to make — an accusation to hurl based on the political positions they already held. They were all looking at a virtual ink blot, but each one saw something based on the lens through which he was looking, not based on what was really there.
Back in 1996, there was a bombing in Atlanta during the summer Olympics. A security guard named Richard Jewell was treated as a suspect. He was first called a hero, but police came to suspect him. Media hounded him like hungry wolves. Jewell’s life was destroyed. Eventually, he was cleared. He had had nothing to do with the attacks, but police and media couldn’t take back the ugly and baseless accusations. They couldn’t give Jewell his life back.
Similar stories might yet play out in Boston. There’s a 20-year-old Saudi man who media reports claim has been questioned. Tuesday morning, there were reports of a “mysterious” man on the roof of a building. Everyone seems to be looking for something to latch onto and assign blame to. A former Obama advisor said he thinks the president believes the attack is somehow related to it being “tax day.”
Everyone wants to find someone to blame.
Television and the Internet are filled with speculation, not with facts. People’s emotions are being worked up into a frenzy based on what might be the case. And everybody participating in this media orgy is doing nothing but irresponsibly fanning flames of anger and fear — whether they’re the allegedly respected professional news people or the nutcase fringe liars such as Alex Jones.
I don’t know the important facts about what happened or why. You don’t, either. Your political or religious prejudices about other people won’t be of any help in understanding this. Please stop speculating. Please stop making accusations. You’re not only making yourself look foolish, but you’re also contributing toward the kind of public panic that leads politicians to seize more power to “make us safer.” Please stop.
We need perspective and calm about this right now. Get away from television news. Quit obsessively reading stories about it that offer nothing but more fear and fuel your anger. Quit looking at the gory pictures.
This kind of violence is fairly common around the world. We’re fortunate enough that it’s unusual here. Be thankful for that, but realize that a society where it happens can still go on functioning as it figures out what happened and responds to it reasonably. Realize that a society that stops in its tracks and fundamentally changes itself because of random violence is one that’s playing right into the hands of whoever did this.
A lot of people at this scene were directly affected by the blast Monday. Their lives will never be the same. The best thing the rest of us can do — for them and for the rest of society — is to get on with our lives and live without the fear and anger that attacks such as this are designed to produce.
If you want to take some action because of this, channel it to something useful. Show other people that you love them and value them. Be kinder and more loving to strangers and people you already know.
You can let yourself be filled with anger and hatred about this incident, but it won’t do you or anyone else any good. Or you can choose to focus elsewhere — and overcome evil with good.
It’s your choice.