They have come for our churches, our schools, our national monuments, our kids with more and more frequency. Foreign and domestic terrorists, from Al-Qaeda to Timothy McVeigh to Adam Lanza, armed with their gripes and guns, their bombs and beliefs, their holy wars and gutless stands taken against the innocent.
It was only a matter of time before they came for our sports again. And when two IEDs (improvised explosive devices) were detonated near the finish line at the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring many more, there was at least some sense this day had been coming all along. The idea, after all, with this cowardly and disgruntled minority is to inflict as much death and destruction not simply upon Americans but our way of life, and so events like the Boston Marathon were always vulnerable, just like Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
There is perhaps no greater demonstration of the human spirit in sports than the 26.2-mile marathon; the resilience required is inspiring. And there is no greater marathon than Boston, the whole city taking off and basking in what is a holiday. These moments should be off limits, but this is why they are not.
No longer can we call games our refuge from the ugliness. It is simply the next battlefield in man’s inhumanity to man. That we have adopted an almost routine following this kind of carnage speaks to its increasing frequency.
We offer our hearts and prayers on Facebook, Twitter and beyond.
I, too, said a prayer immediately Monday, and again upon seeing video of the dual explosions near the finish line of the marathon. I prayed again when I heard how many had been maimed. I prayed again when I learned an 8-year-old boy reportedly was among the dead. I prayed again and again and again.
And yet as my initial sadness fades, I have come to believe the answer is not simply to pray, not simply to repost on Facebook the Mister Rogers quote — as good as it is — about his mother advising him to “look for the helpers; you will always find people who are helping,” not simply to bemoan the state of the world in which we now live.
I have come to believe the answer is in changing the world.
In the words of Arthur Ashe: Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
For example: What if, instead of lauding first responders on Twitter in times of tragedy, we worked in our communities to get these brave men and women compensated like the heroes they are? Or if we had honest conversations why a tiny sliver of a segment of our country is disgruntled to the point of evil? Or how to balance open borders with so many who wish to do us harm?
Some will say this is not the time for any talk beyond prayers. The injured need them, and the dead and their families deserve them. They will say the first responders earned our respect, with images of Boston police scaling fences to run toward the explosion and paramedics calmly rushing in and saving lives underlining this point. We will be told we need to find silver linings, and many exist starting with marathon runners who ran straight to the hospital to give blood. We will be told now is not the time.
What I know for sure, after Aurora and Newtown, is it will never be time. Because when we wait, we allow the pain to dull and we forget how united we once stood and remember how divided we really are when it comes to actual solutions.
Kids and teachers were mercilessly gunned down in Sandy Hook Elementary four months ago. We were heartbroken. We promised never to forget. We prayed. And yet here we go again, retreating to our fallback positions and struggling to have an honest discussion about gun control and safety.
So my final prayer on this Monday is this: Dear God. Comfort the victims. And convict the rest of us to be the change we want to see in the world. Amen.