Essays from the Heartland - My world and times viewed through the prism of the Kansas Flint Hills
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
CROUCHING AT THE DOOR
My emotions since seeing the carnage in Boston a few weeks ago have been
all over the place. When I first watched the media reports the rage and
revulsion I felt were white hot. Then the rage morphed into three fruitless
days of confusion. How could this have happened?And why? No answers came and even if they had
they wouldn’t have explained away the evil. Knowing the how or the why wouldn’t
have made me feel any better.
Evil is very real. It’s been with us since the dawn of human history,
“crouching at the door” of the human heart. Even in this era of human progress
it’s with us, appearing as an uninvited guest at the times and places we least
expect it. As author Lance Morrow once put it, evil is “a mystery, a black hole
into which reason and sunshine vanish, but nonetheless is there.”
I’m now at a different stage, considering the human dimensions of the
tragedy. It’s a tale of lives needlessly taken, limbs shattered, dreams dashed,
and a proud city locked down, living on the cusp of martial law. And, it all
happened because two young men, Tamerlan and Dzohkhar Tsarnaev, opened the door
when evil knocked.
I find it exceedingly difficult to consider that the evil inflicted on
Patriot’s Day had a human face. And, I find it every bit as difficult to consider
that it happened in Boston, the “cradle of American Liberty.”
I grew up in Boston. I know the city well.
I didn’t grow up in the Boston of privilege. My memories of Boston life
are of shabby tenements and government housing projects. My roots aren’t in
Beacon Hill, the panoramas of the Flint Hills, or furrowed country rows. Mine
are in neon and broken ghetto glass. In spite of the disadvantages of my youth,
my roots are deep and my memories are fond. I love Boston; I always will.
I spent many of my formative years in Cambridge, just across the river
from downtown Boston. The Tsarnaev brothers also lived in Cambridge. They both
attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. I graduated from Cambridge High and
Latin School before it merged with Rindge Technical School in the 1970’s. I
read the classics there. I studied Latin and read Caesar’s Gallic Travels.
Like the Tsarnaev brothers, I was a welfare recipient. I wasn’t proud of
it. As soon as I was old enough, I found my way out of the system’s clutches.
I’m very grateful to the U.S. Air Force for liberating me.
I experienced many of my rites of passage in Boston. I remember my first
job. I was twelve. I spent many a Saturday riding along in Mr. Sahaday’s
vegetable truck. My ear is still tuned to his words beamed from a loudspeaker
mounted on the roof of the truck. “Raspberries, strawberries….thirty-five cents
a quart.” I remember the pride I felt when I’d deliver the fruits and
vegetables to his customers. There were some Saturdays I got to take home as
much as two dollars in tips. That was a lot of money in those days.
A couple of times a year I’d get to go the Gahhhden (you know it as the
Boston Garden) to see the Celtics or the Bruins play. In the summer I’d take
the subway to Fenway Park and watch my beloved Red Sox. That was back in the
day when bleacher seats really were affordable. I loved the Sox so much I’d
imitate their batting stances when I played stickball. My favorite was, of
course, Ted Williams, but I also did a really good Jackie Jensen and a pretty
fair Billy Klaus.
But, more than any of the rites of passage, I remember the pride I felt
in being from Boston, the home of the Minutemen and the “shot heard round the
world.” I loved walking along Freedom Trail and making stops at Faneuil Hall,
Paul Revere’s House, or the Old North Church. I’ve climbed to the top of the
Bunker Hill Monument. I’ve been to the village greens at Lexington and Concord
many times. I’ve been to the site of Emerson’s “rude bridge that arched the flood”
on April 19th, 1775.
Boston is, in the truest sense, a good and noble city, and that makes the
act of terror inflicted on her and her citizens all the more senseless.
But, there’s no point in asking the how or why of what happened. The
Tsarnaev brothers had their reasons, almost certainly convoluted. Perhaps, in
the end, they were driven by what Morrow termed “the discrepancy between the
daydream of a golden age and the disappointments of the present.” If so, what
they did would only have to make sense to them. It could never make sense to
the rest of us.