a few more thoughts + cats and flowers

kumquats and plants in the kitchen window

Hanna and I are both finding today much more difficult, emotionally, than yesterday. Yesterday was a day of waiting: between 6am and about 7pm we were asked to stay indoors and essentially nothing happened apart from rampant media speculation.

Then at around eight in the evening, law enforcement officials caught the young man they were looking for hiding in a boat in Watertown.

He was taken to the hospital, injured, and will not be read his Miranda rights before being questioned.

this day needed flowers, so I went out and took pictures
Let me say, first, that I am grateful no more blood was spilled; no more life lost. I am glad that whatever threat this young man and his brother, killed in the chase, represented to the world is no more. I support preventing harm. I also support holding people responsible for their actions, though not through execution, so if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is, in fact, responsible for the marathon bombings I hope he is tried and a just verdict rendered. I also understand why many, many people are angry and afraid -- and why their first reaction is the desire for vengeance.

It's just that I rarely think we should act on our first reactions, or even our second. Perhaps our third or forth thoughts ought to be listened to, but sometimes we must practice patience longer than that. And Hanna and I find ourselves dispirited by the amount of anger and vitriol being spewed across the Internet toward this wounded teenager who -- presuming they have the right man -- did monstrous things, but is also currently alone, in pain, and no doubt terrified.

magnolias outside our apartment building
We've had people tell us we are monstrous ourselves for trying to practice empathy for both victims and perpetrators simultaneously; for suggesting that just because someone has done evil deeds does not mean they deserve questionably legal treatment or abuse. Suffering is sometimes necessary, but never justified, never right. And I question the wisdom of wishing it hatefully upon another human being, even if he himself has allegedly inflicted vast amounts of suffering upon others.

We do not wish to become a mirror to the very violence we profess to abhor.

teazle in the sun

I realize I am a minority voice, at this moment, and that my desire to practice nonviolence is no doubt seen by many as foolish, a position born of privilege.

Perhaps this is so. I am a Bostonian: I work half a mile from Copley Square, the marathon finish line, and live in a neighborhood just across the river from Watertown. I am not speaking from a place of geographical abstraction from the events of yesterday. Yet I was lucky enough that everyone I knew running the marathon escaped unscathed; I did not spend yesterday with tanks or SWAT teams in my street.

But I believe it is part of what I can offer, in these troubling days: mindfulness, and attention to the fact that all of us are flawed and broken. That law enforcement can make mistakes and act violently, that the civil rights of murderers should not be treated lightly, and that even those who inflict suffering can suffer in turn.

I have been trying hard (and believe me -- it is a discipline) to hold all those suffering, and all those struggling to make ethical decisions right now, in my thoughts and in my heart.

May we all move forward toward less hate and suffering.

And obviously, more kittens.

 And books.


  1. I'm sorry people can be mean, and that they ever turn their smallness toward you two ... and I totally hear what you're saying about compassion, lovingkindness, and limiting media exposure. It's interesting to me that extending love and compassion toward those who've hurt us (even in wildly smaller ways than we're talking here) can feel so very threatening. I know this from my own practice, at least--and if I can sort of gasp and turn away from extending my softness toward the softness of a hard person in my life *when I'm trying*, I can see how others (who don't even see the point/value) might recoil from that sort of (not experiment, not gesture, ... approach? emotion? practice?) even from afar. But good on you for dancing on those lines.

    Also, the world needs more Marxist kitties, so keep at that.

    1. Raising up the kitten proletariat to foment a revolution! It's totally our Evil Lesbian Socialist Plot ;)

      And thanks, Molly, for your kind words. I do try not to let it get to me but Someone Is Wrong on the Internet, damn it! Or, rather, someone is assuming ten things about myself and/or Hanna when I've only actually said one. Like, one guy was all upset because he thought I was saying he couldn't be angry about the bombings. Um ... what? It's very strange who will wander around looking for arrows of judgement to grab out of the air and thrust into their chests.

      I agree with you that it is very much understandable that people are upset and angry and frightened. It's the hate and bloodlust and revenge that frighten me -- that taking of anger about an act and turning it into desire to annihilate a person. Again, I totally get the feeling of that -- I just think publicly we should be speaking to larger truths and goals.

      Ah, humans be complicated!

  2. I expressed similar thoughts a few weeks ago when so many of my "progressive" friends were wishing (all but) death for the teenagers convicted of rape in Steubenville, OH. For many, it seems that anything less than hating those convicted makes one a rape apologist. Can't we simultaneously mourn the destruction wrought on three young lives, even if only one party is blameless? I get nervous when anyone is pushed outside the conceptual boundaries of humanity.

    Glad to hear that you and Hanna are ok. Let us know what Teazle thinks of the Karl Marx biography.

    1. Thanks for the thoughts, Joshua. Hanna stole the biography from Teazle (who was using it as a pillow for a catnap!) but we do plan to give it back to her in hopes of supporting the masses :)

      I agree with you about the Steubenville case as well. I think it's a very tricky thing to speak, write, think, about empathy without seeming to absolve those responsible for violence of, well, responsibility. Speaking with empathy gets read too often, I think, as an expression of forgiveness. But the only people who can forgive perpetrators of violence (in my opinion) are those directly harmed by that violence -- and only when such forgiveness is offered uncoerced.

      It's interesting to me, as a mostly-observer in one situation and a total observer in the other, how in the Steubenville case there was so much pressure on the victim to forgive, forget, to not compound harm by ... well, pressing charges. So much victim-blaming going on!

      Whereas here we have the opposite situation, in which even expressing a desire for the perpetrators to be given due process is seen as beyond the pale by some.

      I think there's a (disappointing) lesson to be learned here regarding how the media and the public treats the respective violences of rape and domestic terrorism.

  3. I agree that due process must be followed and only then can real justice be served. To react with hatred and bitterness and not have any foresight into why these acts occurred is to compound the tragedy. To judge first and react before establishing guilt is wrong in any case. Vigilante justice is not true justice.

  4. It's interesting you live in Boston. I was raised and grew up in the Boston area, though I live in Michigan now. My mother lives in Cambridge, not far from where that cop was shot.

    With all due respect though, I strongly disagree with you. I believe that justice demands that Tsarnaev pay for his crimes, and that he should be executed. This is exactly the sort of crime that the death penalty is meant for, it's a crime against the state more than against any individuals. A state that refuses to execute its own enemies is not one I can have a lot of respect for. Not only does this crime need to be paid for, but it's important to send a message to the Jihadist barbarians that blood will be repaid with blood.

    It's worth noting that if this crime had happened in Russia, there wouldn't be hand-wringing about the rights of the Tsarnaev brothers, they would have gone for a swift, sure and stern execution. There are certainly many things not to like about Putin, but he's more of a man than most American politicians, that's for sure.

    1. You are correct that we disagree, as I don't think the death penalty should be acceptable under any circumstances. The United States is in the minority worldwide, where out of nearly 200 nations only 58 (in 2012) sanction the death penalty. I agree with Amnesty International that it is never called for. It only breeds further violence, and turns us into killers. If killing begets killing we have not made the world a better place.

    2. I don't have a great deal of respect for Amnesty International or the rest of the 'human rights' lobby in general (and that's rather an understatement), so it's unsurprising that I don't think much of their remarks about the death penalty either. For me, it's important that justice be done, and in cases of political crimes like this one, justice demands the death of the offender, in expiation of his crimes.

      I'm also unsure of why 'being in the minority worldwide' is an indication that you're *wrong*.

    3. Hector,

      Well, since you don't offer any substantive points regarding your lack of respect for Amnesty International, I can't really respond to you other than to say you're obviously entitled to your opinion as I am to mine.

      I didn't mean to indicate being in the majority automatically indicates rightness (obviously; I am in the minority in many opinions, including being an American who is opposed to the death penalty). My point was that there are many nations in the world who have come to conclusions different from ours on the death penalty, and their perspective(s) may be worth consideration.