Patriots’ Day in my childhood was a spectacle in Massachusetts when the Boston Marathon was run, the Sox played an early game, and every school child celebrated a day off. I never understood the meaning of the holiday, aside from some loose association to a battle at Bunker Hill. Now, Patriots’ Day will be instilled in my adult memory for the modern violence inflicted earlier — and it will gain clear meaning in years to come.
September 11th happened when I was newly in sixth grade, and I still recall the ambiguous fear of that day. My youthful response was a cry for vengeance, modeled after many adults I witnessed nearby and on television who’s blood lust became the narrative. I didn’t know until years later there had been peacemakers immediately calling for a response of love. Now, as a young man molded in a post-9/11 America, I find none of that cry for vengeance or retaliation. I find in myself only a desire to love.
I find too the dusty feelings from September 11th in myself. Those of fear, anguish, and pain for all that is transpiring. The anxiety of the unknown, the inadequacy of the unanswered. Living afar from Boston now, I still know many family and close friends who live, work, go to school there — and would assuredly be partying it up on Marathon Monday. It takes such a tiny connection as this to rupture my calm completely, and cast me desperately on Twitter and Facebook and news sites for a story, an answer, a credible report, a confirmed death toll.
And then, I recall the newness in me that was not there on September 11th or in moments of terror that ensued in my adolescence. The new factor is my awareness now that these feelings, this suffering is the daily experience of millions. Graced with a living situation that is relatively secure, I’m conscious of the daily violence — of conflict and terrorism, of mental anguish and physical malnourishment, of poverty’s deathly sickle — that grind away at the lives of so many millions in our world. The anxiety, fear, pain, suffering, unknown, and everything else is, for me, brought about occasionally, but is the constant reality for too many who are victims of US drone strikes or wayward economic policies favoring the powerful.
This consciousness does not mitigate the feelings in Boston and by those affected today in any way; the pain is real and the implications will be lasting. Instead, our suffering is united out of Boston to join in solidarity with those millions worldwide who are pained today. As Americans, and other citizens attending the Boston Marathon, let us all join together in a too-often rejected humanity common to all. I have no idea what the causes will be or what investigations will find, and I speculate nothing — but I pray for a peace-filled, constructive response when the smoke clears and the reports are issued.
After September 11th, I joined many in supporting wars. Now, I will seek to wage the violence of love instead. I cannot meditate on hate any longer, but only on Christ’s words as he gathered with those whom he loved before a most violent death:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” -John 14:27
This response is all I can muster. No cries for justice, no cries for retaliation, no cries for answers even. Just peace.