Last Monday, I spent my first hour in the office watching the women's finish of the Boston Marathon. A few hours later, I took a brief glance at facebook only to find numerous posts linking to the explosions at the finish line. I was glued to my computer, trying to learn about what had happened, shakened by the random violence on the marathon spectators. Though I didn't know anyone running the race this year, I know many people who's dream it is to get there. And I can't imagine the guilt a runner would feel when their family and friends, who had come to watch them finish, ended up in the hospital instead, or worse. It was shocking; how could this happen to one of America's great institutions.
That same week, 14 people died in a fertilizer plant explosion, 7 died in election protest violence in Venezuela, 2 Richmond teenagers were shot in front of their homes. Probably some ungodly number of people died in countries where war and terrorism are a common occurrence.
At the Boston Marathon, while more than a hundred people were wounded, many severely, very few died. So many fewer than in Newtown, Aurora, Tucson. And yet, our lovely Congress failed to enact meaningful gun-related legislation that same week. Because a background check? God forbid.
I remained glued to the news throughout the release of the photos, the search for the bombers, the killing of the MIT policeman, the grenade launching, the manhunt in Watertown, the blood on the boat. To find one teenager.
I am complicit. We are all complicit. We live in a world where traditional terrorism freaks us out enough to shut down an entire city for an entire day, while more frequent mass shootings appall us, but not enough to do anything about it. Where we fight regulations, the kind that might keep a fertilizer plant from exploding and flattening a town. We are confused.
Last Thursday, I participated in a run for Boston and a candlelight vigil. It was lovely; it was a celebration of running and unity. While I will continue to run marathons, I certainly can't ask anyone to spectate. That's why terrorism is insidious, making us second guess our actions. But are random mass shootings and giant explosions really all that different?