Friday, April 26, 2013

Leon Wieseltier on the Boston Massacre

The Boston Massacre and Our Emotional Efficiency | The New Republic

Leon Wieseltier observes that we might be better served by some righteous indignation and anger rather than by the suggestion of far too many that we move on, rebuild and even put the Boston Marathon attack behind us.  He writes:
Vigilance, increased and intense, is not a victory for the terrorists. Mourning, and the time it takes, is not a victory for the terrorists. Reflection on all the meanings and the implications—on the fragility of our lives—on terrorism and theodicy—is not a victory for the terrorists. A less than wholly sunny and pragmatic view of the world is not a victory for the terrorists. What happened on Boylston Street was not a common event, but it was not a singular event. There is a scar. Taking terrorism seriously is not a victory for terrorism.
The cliches about rebuilding and standing taller are not always the best responses.  They are unhelpful when mourning the loss of a loved one.  Time does not in fact heal.  What time instead offers is how to keep on living despite the loss.  We learn how to live only with those imperfect memories.  We struggle to continue telling our father's or mother's story or as in this case, a child's.  But is that ever possible when the loss is outside the natural order and one discovers oneself mourning a child, ripped from one's arms by the anger of a terrorist?  Is anger really then a misplaced emotion?

Years later there still must be tears.  There is nothing wrong with that.  In fact crying is sometimes the best, and only, response, we have.  Jeremiah laments:

A cry is heard in Ramah—
Wailing, bitter weeping—
Rachel weeping for her children.
She refuses to be comforted
For her children, who are gone. (Jeremiah 31:15)

When approaching this massacre continued tears may in fact lead to continued anger and perhaps even prevent us from moving on.  Is that wrong, Wieseltier reminds us.  We are angry that these two human hearts can be so twisted by hate that they would construct a kitchen made bomb whose only intention was to murder, and especially maim, as many people as possible.  Those tears should continue to burn in our hearts.  Anger can serve a noble purpose.

Being angry at the right things, and people, can serve to make us better--and perhaps even our world better--or at least safer.  The attempt to quickly repair the destruction and erase the anger can turn us away from the work that must be done.  Moving on may be incorrect.  Moving forward--and now in a new and different direction--is the only task.

No comments: