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Cowardice and Heroism

Boston Marathon runner Vu Trang of San Francisco, (AP / Charles Krupa)

I imagine that for most of us, the bombing in Boston on Monday provoked a wide range of thoughts and feelings. For me, near the top was a deep and profound sadness. How is it that someone would deliberately seek to harm innocent people, people standing in a street, waiting for family members and friends to finish a road race? If the bombs were timed, why target runners near the end, the runners for whom this was probably a triumph just to finish, the regular people, people with their own courage and hopes. An eight-year-old boy died, waiting to see his father finish.

How can this be? What is it about us that lets such hatred or anger grow in us that we believe it is acceptable to sow such harm and terror, such evil? What brings this about? Why are humans capable of such gratuitous violence, such meaningless acts? What is possibly accomplished by these kinds of things? Such sorrow for those lost and those harmed, but sorrow, too, that this is who we are.

I can only think that it begins when we think we are better than others, or that others are less than we are. When we think only we are right, when belief gets in the way of tolerance. It begins when principles or ideas become more important than real people. It begins when we think rights matter more than responsibilities. There is too much violence around – the violence at the heart of guns, the violence at the heart of homophobia, the violence that would deny women ownership of their own body, the violence bred in patriarchy, the violence towards immigrants, the violence towards the poor, the violence in entertainment, the violence in professional sports (especially football!) the violence that dogma breeds, the violence of our language.

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The best and the worst of us happened in Boston: cowardice in setting the bombs, heroism in those who responded to the injured. Which side am I on; which are you?

jim nelson

Boston is our UU city; it is our holy city, and so this carries a particular sorrow. It somehow seems so close to home. I have no answer other than what we affirm: the worth and dignity of every person, the rights of conscience, justice, equity and compassion, acceptance, respect. The more they are practiced, the less violence there will be. And that would be a good thing.

Rev. Dr. Jim Nelson
Open Hearts, Open Minds

Thursday, 18 April 2013