Monday, April 22, 2013

What Do We Do?

What Do We Do?

Thursday evening, following a long day of gardening, we decided to forego a home-cooked dinner and head over to our neighbourhood pizza parlor, an establishment whose dress code would graciously welcome our scruffier than usual appearances.  A tempting spinach salad had just been sat down in front of me when something on one of the ubiquitous televisions hanging round the room ensnared my eye.  Looking up I saw the two photographs for the first time.  Two young, very young, men in baseball caps who bore more than a passing resemblance to any one of the college students sprawled in the seats of the dining room in which I now found myself.  The expressions on the faces of these two young men in the video now playing over and over seemed calm, almost bemused, as they walked through the crowd of children and parents, lovers and friends, carrying their homemade instruments of horror as easily as lunch sacks.  
Suddenly, my tasty spinach salad lost its charm.  I let my gaze wander the room, stopping here and there to linger on the innocence of the children, the warm communication of families, the laughter of the young.  And I thought, not for the first time, sadly, what do we do about evil?

Learning more about the two young men who assembled and placed the bombs on the pavements of Boston and destroyed the lives of so many, one discovers lives not unlike those of the people we see everyday.  Their friends are shocked.  Their teachers flabbergasted.  Their uncle is on television wishing he could kneel before all the victims and beg forgiveness for his family.  The more we hear, the more stridently our questions demand to be answered.  How can we make sense of this?  What do we do about evil?

Security is a word oft spoken these days.  Here in the States, we have a governmental department devoted entirely to Homeland Security.  We gladly have our handbags checked, we obediently take off our shoes.  But as anyone who has ever made their way through the throngs at an international airport can tell you, security, though worked for and hoped for, can never be guaranteed.   Indeed, these days it so often seems we reel from tragedy to tragedy like drunken men with nary a clue what to do. Though it seems to me we should have evolved far above and beyond the Wild West days, there are still those who say we would all be safer if we were all armed.  At the other end of the spectrum there are those who simply refuse to go anywhere outside of their comfort zone at all, missing out of so much of what this marvelous world has to offer them.  Either choice is unacceptable to me.  

Throughout this long, heartbreaking week I have felt the pull of despair.  In a world where young men can blithely stroll through a crowd and sit down a bomb beside little children without pause, how is it possible to hold back the darkness?  We look, I suppose, to those who ran not from but towards the bomb’s concussion to help the wounded.  We take heart by our President’s words ... “We also know this — the American people refuse to be terrorized.  Because what the world saw yesterday in the aftermath of the explosions were stories of heroism and kindness, and generosity and love:  Exhausted runners who kept running to the nearest hospital to give blood, and those who stayed to tend to the wounded, some tearing off their own clothes to make tourniquets.  The first responders who ran into the chaos to save lives.  The men and women who are still treating the wounded at some of the best hospitals in the world, and the medical students who hurried to help, saying “When we heard, we all came in.”  The priests who opened their churches and ministered to the hurt and the fearful.  And the good people of Boston who opened their homes to the victims of this attack and those shaken by it.  So if you want to know who we are, what America is, how we respond to evil — that’s it.  Selflessly.  Compassionately.  Unafraid.”

The human heart is not designed to comprehend evil. When we see it rise up before us as we did this week in Boston, in such a malignant, unholy fashion, we recoil, as well we should.  But no credit, no good, can come to us if we stay in that horrible place of fear and disheartenment.  We must look for, and fight for, the good and the beautiful, the joyful, the sweet.  And we must bring those qualities with us into those places where they are hardest to find.  Even in the smallest decisions, we must choose light over darkness.  If we are to have any hope, we must choose love over hate.  Every time.

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it--always.”  
Mahatma Gandhi


  1. Pamela, you bring tears to my eyes for you express so eloquently the horror that these acts of mindless cruelty represent. We must, at all times radiate love and courage, for what we emit is contagious and maybe some day the balance will shift and evil, if not vanquishes, may be reduced to a minimum.

  2. Yes, it is impossible for us to understand this, and yet all we want to know is "why?" I lived in the Middle East for a long while, and though I didn't see anything awful, I learned what a tribal culture all of that part of our Earth really is. These boys were brought up from childhood by other tyrants who taught them how to think the way they think. They were never exposed to anything else, or maybe in the case of these brothers they were exposed but already totally indoctrinated into the culture of hatred, terror, brutality & fear. Fear of not doing as they were told as they saw what happened to the ones who disobeyed. None of us can understand this. We are enlightened people, and some of us even have evil in us causing us to do unspeakable things. The terrorists are ruled by older men who give them dope, who force them to obey no matter the order. Why else would someone strap on a suicide vest? Fear of reprisals to their family. I feel exactly as you feel. I will contribute to the funds which will help the victims and to the deceased police officer's memorial fund. I will still run in my hometown park, go to NFL football games, to the movies and fly on planes. I will never fully comprehend this madness but I will not allow it to scare me or scar my mind so much that it changes my life. I believe all free peoples feel this way too. London, Spain, India, etc. all have suffered these hideous attacks, and they go on. We must become more vigilant. We must take care of the victims, that is the most important work we can do for now.

  3. I spent the day in a workshop learning about restorative justice and how to integrate the philosophy into our school. Then I came home and heard how "justice had been served" as the second suspect in the Boston bombings was apprehended. We can only hope for some answers to the "Why?" that is on everyone's minds. But justice? What does justice look like for those who died so senselessly? What is justice for those who lived but whose bodies will never be the same? As Bostonians celebrated the return of their city, I could only think about those whose lives are forever changed. Funerals and insurmountable hospital bills and weeks or months of rehabilitation are their future. How is the harm they have suffered undone? I do not believe we can eradicate evil, but as I contemplate the philosophy of restorative justice and its power to transform lives, I know that all I can do is try to make my little corner of the world a little better by being kinder and more empathetic toward those impressionable lives I touch every day.

  4. Beautifully put Pamela - no raging, no calling for revenge, but the asking of the question 'Why'? I don't think any of us no the answer - why do people become fanatical about a cause? Why do young men become so disaffected that they can do this with no regard for their victims? We can only pray for that family so torn apart and we can only marvel at the goodness and compassion of all those who ran to help.

  5. Comprehending this terrible happening in Boston is impossible, as are all the horrific bombing and terrorist atrocities committed over and over, day after day, around this world. It tears at my heart, I question, I feel helpless and hopeless. My prayers continue for the victims and their families, my thanks go to the wonderful people who helped and worked diligently to find the perpetrators of such violence. Unfortunately this is not the end, they will continue to come. Security cannot save us, there is always a way to move around the world under the radar, it has been this way since time began and it's even easier now. We have to live our lives knowing evil is around us, but we are strong. WE are the brave and we must pray and hope for better times - that's all we have really, hope.

    Your writing on this recent happening is excellent Pamela. Gandhi's quote floored me. When I visited his simple room in India last year I felt his words emanating from the walls, his sandals still by his bed, the books and artifacts. There was a man whom people should emulate - a man of peace, non-violence and simple beauty, who always said, "my life is my message".

    Wishing you light this weekend.
    Mary X

  6. Pamela, the last week has indeed been filled with terrible tragedy, from the Boston bombings, to the explosion in Texas, to the massive flooding and tornados...all incidents that have left me asking why. As to the your men that came to America for a better life and seemed to have found it after ten years, we will never know the why. And even if we heard an explanation would it matter? It cannot bring back little Martin, or give his sister her leg, or help his mom recover from her brain injury.

    There is jut evil on the world, it is as simple as that, it takes all forms, from the bombers, to bullies, to people who duct tape animals and leave them on the road. The important lesson in all of this is life an love. We must live life to the fullest, we cannot let evil in any form scare us so that we quit living, although to be honest there are days it stops me in my tracks. We must love our family, friends snd fellow man, and hope that on our dying day they know how special they are.

    Thank you for the elequent words and reminder.

    I hope Apple is feeling better.

    A beautiful Saturday to you, Elizabeth

  7. Beautifully worded ... Good is more powerful than evil ... and we need to remember this and not let evil control us with fear. Blessings, C. (HHL)

  8. Though I don't often comment on sites, this wonderful, eloquent writing deserves a simple thank you and kudos to you for finding the words to express what many of us feel. It gave comfort to many, I'm sure.

  9. Pamela....found myself saying a prayer for that 19 yr old young, and so lost.

    Can a young heart really be so hard, or was he born into chaos and has no true concept of the value of life and love?

    Whatever the reason, the violence of this world - which has always been present - is very heart-breaking.

    your words are always so lovely and comforting and enlightening - thank you

    Judy in Ft Worth

  10. Pamela - this is so eloquent at a time when I have been having trouble putting my conflicting feelings into words. Thank you for this...

  11. Along with most Canadians, I have followed the events in Boston and area with horror and sadness. We have visited that wonderful city, and our nephew and his young family live in Newton.

    A couple years ago, Jack Layton, leader of one of our federal political parties, led his party to an unprecedented number of seats in the House of Commons. As he lay dying from cancer 4 months later, he wrote a letter to all Canadians which included these words:

    'My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world.'

    I wish you all love, hope, and optimism.

    Christine Bennett
    Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

  12. Thank you for your thoughtful words. And for all the comments from others here. I feel more love, hope and optimism for the world today. It is important we keep that spirit for to lose it is to live in fear which draws more and more of this kind of energy. I like what White Rabbit said about making my own corner of the world a little better because that is all we can do, and it's big. Bigger than we realize. I too say a prayer for the 19 year old young man as I look at the promising face of my own college aged son and tears come to my eyes. My hope is for what we may learn from this, the silver lining, there must be one.

  13. I also believe there is a silver lining even though we may not be able to recognize it a this point in time. Faith in love is a powerful thing.

  14. unfortunately hate is the other side of love. Remember that Israelis live like that every day and they still carry on, we have to do the same . Having grown up during a war, humans survive no matter what.

    Annie v.

  15. Thank you. I'm grateful to read your gracious, eloquent words.
    Thank you!

  16. Love and kindness always endure. Even in the midst of a manhunt, whereby innocent human beings had to witness such evil happenings. Love brings people together, and it always will.

  17. An eloquent post, one I will read again as I try to make sense of these awful events.

  18. Truth and love ALWAYS WIN, indeed. Dark and light exist together, but light will always triumph.

    Thank you so very much Pamela for coming to visit me and wish me well! April IS for sure a beautiful month to celebrate, but we here in Minneapolis are still getting snow!

    Hugs to you and Sir Edward! Anita

  19. Pamela,
    I opened your post with the knowledge of what your topic would be and that you would provide me with some comfort of your lovely way with words, I was not disappointed. I read from one person this week that we have to remember that the overwhelming majority of the world is made up of kind people and that the evil people are the minority. Thank you for always making me smile.

  20. There is no sense to evil... there never was and there never will be. Explanations are never enough, never answers nor solutions...
    I like your description 'the wild west' Pamela... I think we are living in a wild world...
    Thank you for your heartfelt always they are a balm... xv

  21. Pamela,

    Thank you for this post and for the wonderful quote at the end.


  22. Thank you for such an enlighting post. Very well said and sooo true! Mahatma Ghandi...the prophet of nonviolence....knew what he was talking about..."but in the end, they always fall." Good will overcome evil, empathy over apathy, LOVE over hate. We have to believe and keep showing love and kindness toward our fellow human beings. It's the only known antitode to hate.

  23. A heartfelt post; I think the very earliest seeds of hate need to be addressed, as many lives lack love, family, self esteem, live under horrible conditions or archaic government, cultures far behind a far as progress goes - a multitude of reasons why one goes astray. The ages of puberty also have a strong influence over an already difficult one terrorist lost his mother and his father was a bully and no one filled the hole with anything except the army...not healing in the proper way his psyche was turned in the most negative direction, under the guise of 'you belong here'..if you follow me. Anyway, I've always thought this though I know it would be impossible to do accomplish on such a widespread level. It's about nurturing/sensitive or ill people before it can get out of hand...right...impossible to isolate many out of our scope....and even then?????

  24. Let's hope there is a God up there that will stop this horror.
    HELLO- GOD help us.
    The earth is in trouble.
    we need to unite.

    love yvonne

  25. I've always been one to try and keep the nastiness of the world at bay. But it's accelerating it seems and thus getting harder to ignore. You're so right about our hearts being unable to comprehend evil. I, too, believe we should have evolved as a species beyond hatred and warring(and all other despicable crimes)by now.

    I suppose I'll do what Mister Roger's mother advised him when he was frightened by events: "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."

    Hope the darling Apple is back to frolicking, though certainly not after squirrels!

  26. How does one explain or comprehend such cannot, but one can focus on the love and good there is in the world and conquer evil with both...never allowing it to win.
    Your eloquent and comforting words are a testament to the good and love that does exist...thank you.
    So happy Apple is on the mend...♥
    xo J~

  27. These are hard times indeed. We traveled through Boston on our way to England and got detained on the way back due to my son's physical resemblance to the younger terrorist. At times like this I look to Gandhi too for inspiration.

  28. PAMELA-

    Love this. To save. To keep. To ponder and read more evil comes into our view, in the world.

    Bless you, DIANE

  29. your words pamela are a poignant reminder of the strength within and the power of good vs evil

  30. I just want to say thank you....

  31. I was in Boston that day with my four children, waiting for my husband to finish the marathon. He did---3:23---less than an hour before the bombs. This was his first race ever that we were not at the finish line, waiting to catch that priceless picture of joy when he crosses the timer. The swell and jostling of the crowd made me nervous of losing track of my 7, 9, 11 & 13 year old. So instead, for the first time, I chose to wait in the family area---an area behind the building which faced the finish line. A safe area. Because of the crowds, it took him 45 minutes to reach us even though we were so close. As he put on warm pants and the children yelled out names of nearby street restaurants for lunch the first bomb went off. We paused, looked at the sky and thought, "that sounded strange." We saw no smoke, heard no screams. We began walking away, deciding to take the T back to our hotel in Cambridge and have lunch there when the second bomb went off. People paused, looked around, and continued on. Then, emergency vehicles swarmed by and still, we thought, "must have been an accident nearby." As we approached the T, armed guards told us to keep our children close and evacuate the downtown area immediately. Instantly, our phones and the phones of other runners around us began to buzz as people who had been watching television begged to hear we were safe. Still, for a few moments we had no idea of the horror we had been saved from. That fragile moment of excited, curious bliss overwhelmed by shocked, frightened horror.

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  33. I wonder if you know the 19th century hymn "How Can I Keep From Singing"? Your heartfelt post brought these lines (famously sung by Pete Seeger) to mind:

    Thro' all the tumult and the strife
    I hear the music ringing;
    It sounds an echo in my soul—
    How can I keep from singing?
    No storm can shake my inmost calm
    While to that rock I'm clinging;
    Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth,
    How can I keep from singing?


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