Thursday, April 18, 2013

What Should We Do?

How many of you saw the Saturday Night Live introduction with Rudy Giuliani after the 9/11 attacks? The mayor essentially gave the cast permission to tell jokes again by cracking one of his own.

A certain awkwardness arises after a national tragedy. It's awful, horrible, overwhelming. We know that some people's lives have ended and others' lives have irrevocably and forever changed. But life goes on for most of us. We wonder how we should show respect but not give in to grief. We wonder how much we should let it affect our lives. If we let events overwhelm us, aren't we giving the bad guys even more power than they deserve?

On Monday, I had planned a post on my card-making blog of a happy birthday card...a cheerful card I could joke about. After the Boston tragedy, however, I felt it would be inappropriate to post that card, and posted THIS instead.

If you read the comments, you'll see that most of my readers agreed with my decision to delay posting the card. One reader from Ireland pointed out how common such scenes were there for thirty years...a comment that put the Boston tragedy in perspective as something unusual and shocking in our relatively peaceful and secure country but sadly too common in countries torn apart by political or religious or economic conflict. Her comment made me think of our friends stationed in Egypt right now, and I said a prayer.

One reader, Tanis, respectfully provided another perspective:

"I don't think it would have been inappropriate. There's something to be said for carrying on and not allowing the the perpetrator(s) of this horrific crime be more disruptive than they already have been. Forging ahead diminishes their power."

Tanis has a very good point, and I'm grateful she spoke up. There is, indeed, something to be said for carrying on.

In my post, I wrote:

"Posting my cheerful card seems indecent and inappropriate when the parents of an 8-year-old are mourning, when three whole families in Boston are mourning and countless others are eaten up with worry and fear."

That's definitely how I felt that evening, but I wish now I had emphasized that it seemed inappropriate for me to post something cheerful that night. My attitude need not--should not--be shared by everyone. And I certainly didn't think the people who continued posting to their blogs as usual, without mention of Boston, were in any way being indecent or inappropriate. It just felt that way for me.

In other words, my words expressed my feelings and were in no way a judgment of others' feelings or behavior. We all respond differently, some (like me) publicly with words and some very privately in the quiet of their hearts.

Boston hit me particularly hard, I think, because I know what it feels like to cheer on a loved one near the finish line of a big race. I know the excitement, the joy, the enthusiasm of the crowd, the sweat of the racers, the stumbles of exhaustion, the yells of encouragement from strangers you'll never see again in your life, the goodwill radiating from everyone.

Someone did an enormous evil in the midst of all that goodwill, and I'm still sad, still affected by the human cost of it all. But Tanis is right, too. The London marathon will go on, other races will be run, and I'll be in Wisconsin in September cheering George through another Ironman.The bombing won't stop us from gathering enthusiastically.

Let's all pay respect in whatever way we see fit and forge ahead.

That seems like the right thing to do.


  1. Great post, Susan. Thank you for your wisdom and thoughtful words. We too, have stood at the finish line, as recently as January, and waited for our loved ones to finish their event. Our love and prayers go out to all of the affected families. One thing I wish we could find balance with in a tragedy like this, is the media coverage. When we spend days and days of coverage, we are giving the 'bad guys' exactly what they want. However, how fair is it to the hurting families to NOT give that coverage? One last comment - perhaps we need to stop calling them 'acts of terrorism', and call them 'acts of cowardice'. Okay, all done. Thanks!

  2. Beautiful words, Susan. I totally understood your post the other day, and your choice to NOT post a happy card. That others made different choices was not bad, just different. The bombing of the Boston Marathon hit me terribly hard, because I, too, have stood at the finish line with my two little girls cheering everyone who has made that massive run, while we await the arrival of my runner hubby. The Boston Marathon is on MY list of marathons I want my hubby to run, and NY, and London... All I could think of was all of those friends and family there to cheer others on, GIVING to others, and being caught up in an explosion. I don't understand evil like that.

  3. Oh, wow! Sorry I didn't see this 'til just now. Obviously, I'm waaay behind on my blog reading. Things have been hectic, and I don't use a reader, so I read in spurts.

    There's certainly nothing wrong with deciding not to post something cheery when you're not feeling cheery, which is a completely understandable reaction. I'm sure we were all feeling less than cheery that night. I just didn't feel that you, or anyone else, should feel guilty if you had decided to carry on because there is some merit in that approach IF it feels right for you.

  4. Tanis, I didn't take your comment negatively at all. It made me think, which is the best sort of comment you can make!

    1. I did get the impression from your post that you took it exactly the right way, though I did worry about that when I posted it. E-mails and the like can be so easily misinterpreted!


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!