Tragedy at the Boston Marathon: Who's Saying It Best

photo h/t Anne Phillips

I didn't really know how to feel or what to do. I decided to pour myself into this [vigil]. Now it's here. I guess we'll see what happens next. —Rene Perez, Boston

It's hard to know how to react in moments of great tragedy. It's in those moments, though, that community is of parmount importance. The bombings at the Boston Marathon has created one of those moments. Boston has been home to UFE since our founding 18 years ago. What happened on Boylston Street on Monday, April 15, 2013 at approximately 2:50 p.m. hit home. Our Tuesday morning staff meeting became a reflective and supportive space for our grieving team, and it was an opportunity to reaffirm our commitments to making this sometimes painful world a better place for all people.

Only the work of law enforcement officials can reveal who is responsible for this attack. But, there is, perhaps, nothing the investigation would uncover that can fulfill our rational human need to know why this senseless act was carried out. There is no justifying it.

It would be difficult at this stage to contribute anything more or meaningful to the ongoing and often repetitive dialogue. Instead, we want to share with you some of the most helpful commentary we've come across. These insights may not bring closure to this horrific matter, but they've been helpful in guiding how we receive and mange both the information and our feelings in this moment.

Don't buy into everything you're reading or hearing wholesale. "There's still a lot we don't know," and "many of the initial reports on media outlets...have proven to be false" (Mother Jones). The consequences of widespread misinformation are damaging and can place innocent people in danger. Glenn Greenwald details the active role of mainstream media outlets in breeding and bolstering Islamophobia in moments of terror.

It's okay to be sad. It's perfectly appropriate to be angry. But, we can't allow fear and panic to take over. Bruce Schneier asks, "What has happened to 'the only thing we have to fear is fear itself?'" He urges that we "empathize, but refuse to be terrorized," because public reactions to this rare, albeit horrible, event will shape the state's response.

Vigilance—not wreckless vigilantism—is crucial if we're to uphold our values and avoid further fear-driven compromise of our rights in this crisis. 99.999999% of Americans may want to consider John Cole's more critical approach to information gathering, because a purely reactive, shoot-from-the-hip approach is more likely to reinforce destructive patterns and unfounded biases.

This week, Americans share the pain of mass violence with Iraqis, Somalis, Afghans, and Syrians, among others. But, should our species be defined in such a large part by our violent realities? Should our collective actions be informed to the greatest extent by the worst of us? "We are better than this," says Erin Niemela. "Humanity is better than this."

Time—according to Rinku Sen—to live with, feel, and share this moment together will give peace a fighting chance in the wake of devastation.

Photo credit: Anne Phillips via "Peace Here & Everywhere—Boston Vigil on the Common"

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