I read the post by Patton Oswalt (who I think is hilarious and brilliant) about the Boston Marathon tragedy. I really liked his point that so many people were running toward the destruction to help -- which reminds me of Mr. Rogers's very comforting suggestion when confronted with a catastrophe: "Look for the helpers." The human species can be mind-bogglingly brave and altruistic.
But Patton goes on to say that when a human commits some violent act like the Boston explosions, it's because of some anomalous snarl in the wiring of that human's brain. That's also very comforting.
And it's wrong. It's actually the brain functioning exactly as it's supposed to.
Look, no one knows who caused this. Maybe it was that rare psycho, and his parakeet told him to do it.
But it looks like this was just one of those not-at-all rare acts of humanity that was borne out of aggression, hatred, revenge, lust for power, political calculus, fear, bigotry, etc. etc. These violent acts are carried out every day, by and in the name of MILLIONS or BILLIONS of people, all over the world. Just ask people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Uganda, the Middle East, the entire 1940s, and countless decades and centuries and islands and regions and continents through human history.
I'm not making any moral equivalence, and I'm not making a political point. I'm making a philosophical point, a biological point.
We can't pretend that when this happens to us it was caused by boogie men who crawled out of a crevice in the earth. They didn't do it in spite of their humanity, they did it because of their humanity -- the very worst side of it.
And maybe if we recognize that, and see it clear-eyed in others and in ourselves, we'll come closer to finally defying that horrible, evil part of our humanity, and make a rational move toward peace.
This post originally appeared on Tom the Dancing Bug Blog.