I went to Boston two years ago, not for business or to visit family, but to see the city. I’m a weird species of traveler that is completely uninterested in beaches, nature hikes or anything like that, I travel to see cities, to breathe in their heavy air and to blend into their bustling bodies. I like the distinct architecture of the buildings in the city and the way the roads move that speaks to the history of the people who built it. In Boston, like in New York, the roads sometimes become narrow, then cobblestone, and if you follow those streets you’ll encounter preserved houses and statues dedicated to America’s history. I felt the past more acutely in Boston than I did in New York, but history is a theme throughout the cities in the east coast, which is why I love them.
The people of a city are half of the charm of a city and what separates it from a mere interactive museum. The people of a city all move like artists in a commune, every noise and event holds meaning that is vital to the character of a city. It’s because of the people that I found Boston to be the more athletic older cousin of New York. When the BF and I took the train we witnessed a slew of sports fans piling in wearing identical sports jerseys. I rolled my eyes as I don’t really get sports, but they were happy enough to start chanting on the train before piling out on one stop.
I dipped my toes in the frog pond, watched families splash around, marveled at the gentle movements of the weeping willows, this wasn’t Central Park, it was something unique and Bostonian. After Boston Common we walked some of the Freedom Trail and found Paul Revere’s statue and that led to an afternoon trip to a small street lined with pubs. After a few beers we stumbled out of the bar, giggling, only to find the most awkward Holocaust Memorial of all time. I don’t know who decided to place the memorial next to the bars in the middle of a street, but there we were; reading somber plaques while swaying full of beer.
I mention my trip to Boston because two bombs went off there, 3 people died, and so many more were injured, and in the anxious rush away from destruction we find ourselves reaching for answers and for lessons to be learned. I’ve told you what I learned and experienced from my four day trip to Boston, and now I’d like to share what I’ve learned from a lifelong stay as a witness to violence and destruction, from the LA Riots, gang violence, and school shootings to domestic bombings, World Trade Center 9/11s, and lots of wars:
I was beginning to think that maybe I was a little obtuse, but try as I might I have learned absolutely nothing from violence and destruction. People have tried to teach the lessons, boy have they tried, I’ve read lots of “we should haves” and “I hope this means” but ultimately there is no lesson to be learned because violence isn’t a teacher. When have the reasons for a violent act satisfied you? When did you hear the reasons and think, “well yes, I can see now why they sought to destroy,” because I’ve heard them all and have yet to learn anything.
When tragedy visits us we learn from the first responders, the victims, the families of the victims, the kind neighbors, and all involved who only wish to do the most good with the limited options afforded to them. There is much to learn in times of stress. We should learn to protect innocent people in danger of despicable retribution, and we should learn to keep our heads cool.
But what anguish should we learn from the people who would kill and maim?
They have nothing to teach us.