Keep the Faith

On Monday afternoon, I arrived back to my dorm from classes to hear shocking news: there had been two explosions at the Boston Marathon. Little was known about the situation, but the number of casualties was expected to be high. I watched with horror as more details about the tragedy emerged, and like many others, my first reaction was one of disgust. It seems like mass violence has become a monthly, if not weekly, occurrence in America, particularly over the past year or two. Naturally, many of my peers were similarly affected by the attacks, and many expressed their grief online. But while posts of sympathy on social media sites are well intentioned, they often fall flat. It’s natural to want to express one’s emotions, but too often, posts are laden with unavailing despair and nihilism. When I logged onto Facebook, I noticed statuses very similar to those I’d come to expect from the recent Aurora and Newtown shootings. Most of the posts were similarly worded, addressing the writer’s sadness and disgust at the events of the day. People spoke of “losing faith in humanity” and being dismayed at “what the world was coming to.” But while what happened in Boston is undeniably tragic, and posts like this are understandable and natural, I think that they are ultimately useless and even harmful. While the bombing was a terrible act, we often overlook all the admirable acts which followed in response. In the video footage of the bombs going off, people can be seen rushing immediately into the explosions to help those injured—people they probably shared no bond with other than that they all came together, as runners or spectators, to one of the largest global gatherings on the planet. In Boston, athletes who had just run over 26 miles ran even further to the nearest hospital to donate blood. Restaurants gave out free food. “The New York Times” took down the paywall on their site for coverage of the explosions. Google organized spreadsheets of people offering places to stay, and a search tool to find family members and friends who’d checked in with the Red Cross. Other Internet users, often anonymous, donated frequent flyer miles and hotel credit. And in the day following the attack, messages of sympathy by both public figures and ordinary civilians reached us from all over the world. It’s not yet known who was behind this attack, but regardless of who was responsible, those people, who helped give aid, whether small or large, to strangers outnumber the perpetrators vastly. There are so few causing the harm; there are so much more trying to help. The good are often a silent majority, but I urge everyone emotionally affected by the attacks not to forget that positive side of human nature. There is far too much good in the world for us to let it be overshadowed by evil. To be cynical after a tragedy is understandable. To view humans as angry, violent beasts is easy. To stay hopeful is hard—but it’s worth it. Idealism is often seen as silly and naive, but it’s what keeps us together. Whoever is behind these attacks wanted to cause fear and dismay and to drive people apart. We cannot let them. To those who are horrified by this tragedy, reconnect with that positive outlook you lost on Monday. We need to view the Boston explosions, tragic as they are, not as another item in a list of reasons why the world is falling apart, but as a testament to the strength of the human spirit. We owe that much to the heroes in Boston, and to the potential heroes within ourselves. Many have found themselves losing hope in humankind in the wake of such tragedies, but as long as there are paramedics risking their lives, ordinary people giving shelter, money and blood, even teenagers posting messages of sympathy on Facebook, my faith in humanity is unshakeable. Peyton Alie is a new Lower from Sudbury, MA.