Our Angels Outnumber our Demons


Trust drives this world.

Think of it, you’re on a crowded expressway with numerous other cars darting between lanes at over 60 miles per hour.  You’re trusting that none of these drivers decides “ah, screw this” and spin out to cause a massive wreck.  If you cross a crowded street you trust that the cars will stop to let you cross.   When you’re at a major event with masses of people you trust that no one is going to try to turn that into an opportunity for mass murder and carnage.

Alas, sometimes that trust is broken.

It’s easy to lose oneself in the sorrow of the Boston bombings, especially the plight of eight year old Martin Richard, who was killed by the explosion as he was there to see his dad cross the finish line in the Boston Marathon.    The pictures are horrific – blood, lost limbs, people in agony, not believing how events are unfurling.   A day that is joyous – Marathon day, with a Red Sox game in the morning and a Bruins game at night – turns tragic.

Eight year old Martin Richard was one of the fatalities

Eight year old Martin Richard was one of the fatalities

Yet the news isn’t all bad.   In a tragedy the ability of humans to reach out to each other, help and often act heroically comes into focus, such as these inspiring images from Boston.    How people empathize, cry and feel a bond with the victims speaks to a core aspect of human nature:  we are connected.   We feel that connection.   Some people find themselves almost unable to function due to the pain caused by the suffering of others.   Some reach out to their loved ones, embracing the reality that they are healthy and together now, regardless of what the future may bring.

Think for a moment – what if it were reversed?  What if all those heroes and average folk who strive to help after an event were all willing to kill and destroy for the sake of some abstract cause?   What if all those who feel viscerally for the victims and are saddened by the events were supportive of murder and terror?    What kind of world would we have?

It’s natural to grieve for humanity at such a time.   The senseless violence, the ability of people to turn off their humanity and kill for some ideology or cause – what a sad world!   To that I say – not so fast!

If people were truly prone to senseless violence, this would happen all the time.   Crowds in sporting events, parade routes, marathons like this are common throughout the country.   Security is never adequate to prevent a determined attack.  It will happen when people are truly motivated to kill.   Yet it is rare.

Former Patriot Joe Andruzzi pitches in to help rescue the victims

Former Patriot Joe Andruzzi pitches in to help rescue the victims

Instead of grieving for humanity or donning a pessimistic view of the world, the fact that such an event stands out as an exception to the norm should cause us to recognize the deep bonds of social trust and connectivity that define our world.   The deaths are tragic – but how many of the 30,000 plus killed each year in traffic accidents are also children?  The fact that this kind of event is so rare says something powerful about the essential goodness of humanity.

Moreover, the way people come together, comfort, help and console shows that our angels far outnumber our demons.  Boston hospitals are turning away blood donors because so many volunteered.    So yes, grieve for the victims, let tears flow for the family that lost their son Martin, feel the sadness of Bostonians grappling with what this means for the city, but don’t become cynical.    Don’t cancel travel out of fear, don’t think that evil is common.   We notice the terror act, we should also notice how often we come together peacefully.

As we grieve for the victims we should celebrate our angels, whether first responders, people who care for and comfort the victims, blood donors and simply those of us who feel from a distance.   Our angels are everywhere, in broad daylight.  Our demons are few and hide in the shadows.    They do not define us.

  1. #1 by GiRRL_Earth on April 16, 2013 - 14:45

    Why does it always take a crisis like this (and 9/11) to bring people together when it only lasts a short while and then most people go back to being a rude me-me-me asshole. I commute into the city every day via the Commuter Rail — not a day goes by that I don’t experience some level of rudeness or witness down right egregious behavior. Why do we only change or appear to change when we are standing at the precipice?

  2. #3 by Scott Erb on April 16, 2013 - 14:55

    War is almost always supported by a strong effort to dehumanize the enemy, or make it seem like acts of violence are focused on only evil people. The media plays into this too – dead civilians aren’t shown (compare, say Al Jazzeera to CNN) and people are actively dissuaded from feeling any connection to victims. Use drones and it’s even easier – and hidden. But that double standard is frustrating. Our dead matter, their dead don’t. It’s the them and us thing that has to go!

  3. #4 by lee1978 on April 17, 2013 - 05:27

    Well said Scott! I commute often into the city by train usually. I typically have almost all my brood with me too. There are unkind people but by far I have met far more who are kind, who are helpful. In some weird way I almost think our brains are programmed to notice the unkind more. Maybe I can blame that on the fact that usually that is what is broadcast on the news so one could make a case that we have been programmed to look for that. Or maybe it is an early survival instinct–who knows. But I do believe if we reach out and look for it, good is around us most of the time.

  4. #5 by elizjamison on April 17, 2013 - 05:35

    Well said. This post helps me find something to grasp onto when I’m trying to make sense of it all. And also, I thought about the trusting issue: I don’t want to be a paranoid person who is afraid to enjoy life, to GO places, because of these senseless events.

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