Ah that old salt, dragged out by the likes of the NRA whenever there is a tragedy involving guns (please oh please don’t get me started on those people and the spineless idiocy that the US government demonstrated, once again, in refusing to strengthen anti-gun legislation. That’s definitely another rant). Tragedy happened again, in full view of the world- with no guns involved this time (at least in the initial event). But there were children involved, as is the case all too often.
I have to admit that I’ve had some difficulty finishing the posts that I’ve started over the past couple of weeks, and although I very much felt the need to respond to the act of terror at the Boston Marathon and the media frenzy that followed, I couldn’t bring myself to do so right away. The point of this blog is to celebrate humanity. To tell our stories and present some of the ways in which the myths connect us all. Ways that transcend racial, cultural, geographical or historical context, and accept and celebrate the differences that inform the manner in which we characterize and tell those stories. Knowledge and familiarity should breed the opposite of contempt. There is beauty to be found, if we take the time, and it shouldn’t be crushed under the radical actions of a group or individual seeking to further a nebulous agenda sourced in an extreme ideology. Others (like Patton Oswalt) have responded with beautiful writing and a heart-felt cry to stand strong.
I’ve needed some time to get over this latest evidence of Man’s Inhumanity to Man. I could write about how I was tempted to remain glued to the television, watching as everything unfolded and waiting, with the rest of the world, for some progess to be made in finding the people responsible. Or how I suffered flashbacks of a sort, remembering sitting on my couch, wrapped in a blanket- despite the fact that it was a beautiful day- on September 11, 2001, paralysed, but hopeful that there would be answers to be found if I somehow just kept watching. But there were no easy answers to be found that day, or in the years that have followed. So on April 15, 2013 I deliberately turned off the television. I couldn’t watch as ‘experts’ postulated on causes or culprits, as news stations jockeyed for positions in close proximity to the blockaded streets in downtown Boston, and posted more and more images of frightened, devastated people.
I understand the importance of the media in telling our stories, but ‘news’ these days is often so sensationalized and in obvious search of the bigger market share, that it has become physically and psychically hard for me to watch. I knew the story wasn’t going to go away, and that there were ways to stay informed without being bombarded by every ‘lead’, ‘suspect’ or ‘theory’ that was entertained for more than two minutes. The full story is still unfolding, weeks later, and will require a response from many levels of government and society. That it is a story of tragedy is without doubt. That there are complexities wrapped up in the event, remains to be explored (and, despite what some politicos might think, MUST be explored- but THAT’s another rant…).
The origin of the word and concept of the marathon has its beginnings in mythology, marking the legendary tradition recounting the run to Athens by a Greek messenger to proclaim victory over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon. The myth doesn’t have a particularly happy ending since the runner collapsed and died immediately after his message was delivered, but the story has come to stand for the same things that the races represent. The runner, Pheidippides, executed an amazing feat, covering an enormous distance in the committed pursuance of his job and the larger furtherance of the glory of Athens. Marathon runners across the world enter the races as a means of continuing self-challenge and push for the next personal best. I am not a runner, and those that are have shaped better responses as runners (or as former runners, like my friend Tracey here). The completion of a marathon at all, and the long, proud history of the Boston Marathon specifically, must remain events to be celebrated without the taint of dark designs meant to mindlessly terrorize unsuspecting civilians.
As I wrote the title of this post, despite its intent and its loaded (no pun intended), propagandizing tautology, what popped into my mind and has stayed there as I write are the lyrics to ‘People are People’ by Depeche Mode. A simple (if catchy as all get out) song about the truly simple fact that blind hatred and aggression are ridiculous and that common decency can still be found. We just have to somehow ensure that decency takes less time to travel between our ‘collective heads and fists’, and that our reactions to horrible instances of terror and hatred, like the events in Boston last month, are tempered with rationale and humanity. To do so, we have to firmly reject those ideologies- and their supporting myths- that, in any way, encourage acts of violence and terror against other human beings. This includes stories that:
Say there is ONLY one true way.
Glorify sacrifice of life as a means to an end- ANY end.
Celebrate violence and sensationalize pain and suffering.
Suggest that anything other than complete equality for all is ‘the right thing’.
Support the continued suppression of the disenfranchised.
It’s time to realize that we can and must control our narratives- both individual and collective. As thinking, rational, human beings we can actively choose to reject such stories as being dictated, unwavering, stagnant, static guidelines for life and actions, and likewise choose to reject the dogmas and doctrines that claim to be supported by these stories. It is only through doing so that we will recognize that, rather than being ‘divine’ goads to action or reaction, myths are NOthing more than human creations with human motivations behind them. And not all human motivations are positive.
We need to remove the gods, and devils, and boogeymen from our ways of seeing the world. Sure, they make great characters (no one knows that better than me) but as exemplars for behaviour they often leave a great deal to be desired. There ARE positive role models to found in our myths, but too often even those models are bastardized out of all recognition by later traditions ascribing beliefs or behaviours or words to such characters, out of fear of the different or ‘other’. It’s time to stop. Just stop. Our myths absolutely have their purposes and they can be wonderful and informative about us as people and the ways in which we live and interact in this world and hope for worlds to come. But it’s long past time to finally put away those childish things that speak of vengeance, hatred, xenophobia, supremacy etc. etc. etc. etc. and to shape our own narratives and interactions with our fellow humans. “I can’t understand what makes a man hate another man.” True true words from my friends in Depeche Mode. Please. Can’t we just grow up already?