There was a bomb that went off here in Nashville too. A bomb was detonated inside of a little school called Hattie Cotton Elementary a little over 55 years ago. It went off one day after President Eisenhower signed The Civil Rights Act of 1957, and it was also one day after the first day of school, as Nashville begrudgingly complied with orders to integrate their schools. They decided to integrate one grade per year, starting with first graders, until after twelve years all the schools would be desegregated. The day before the bomb went off, one five-year-old African American walked into Hattie Cotton through a crowd of shouting, boycotting, hating people. A little after midnight, a dynamite explosion blew up a whole wing of the school. It’s thought that the people who planted the bomb believed this act of violence would scare leaders into abandoning their plans for integration…. It did not have that effect. That day, terrorists destroyed a whole wing of the school, but this senseless act galvanized the people’s resolve to stand behind the decision to integrate, and there weren’t any more incidents after that. Hattie Cotton reopened a few months later, and it’s still there today–I’ve been there to teach kids about accepting differences.
Today, after the news of the Boston Marathon Bombing broke, I watched as a whole lot of people said the words “Thoughts and Prayers.” Thoughts and Prayers…. What the hell does that even mean? I’m serious. I’m looking at pictures of blood-soaked streets, and I can just FEEL myself getting more and more cynical. I’m reading “Thoughts and Prayers” on all these Facebook statuses and I’m thinking, “Put your thoughts and prayers in one hand and take a crap in the other, and see which one fills up first.” THAT kind of cynicism. I don’t know what power our prayers have at a time like this…. I started thinking about people using this as a reason to buy some more guns. I started thinking about how people are going to react if the person who did this horrible thing turns out to be a Muslim. I started thinking about all the hateful and racist and ignorant things that get written in the comments section of news stories, and I thought about all the people who “like” those comments, and I started feeling like everything is just bullshit.
But everything isn’t bullshit.
I know–It might seem like everything is bullshit when you read the comments section online, but those people writing those hate-filled things are all cowards. These people who resort to violence and bombs and terror…. They are all cowards too. They hide behind their screens and their fear and their hatred and their murder, and they don’t matter. They don’t inspire. You know what inspires? People who hear two explosions and start running toward the destruction–with the memories of the Twin Towers still ringing in their heads. Two bombs go off on the bottom floors of some big buildings, and people rush toward it trying to do what they can. It’s wonderful! And people try to turn this sort of bravery into “An American Thing.” It’s not. It’s a human thing. Today in Iraq, 55 people were killed and over 300 hurt in a series of explosions…. It will barely make a blip on our U.S. news. But the people living in Iraq ran to help those who were hurt as well. Humans are wonderful. There is good and bad in all of us, but the good is so much more inspiring than the bad is scary.
I was reminded of this today by Patton Oswalt who wrote these amazing words:
Boston. Fucking horrible.
I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, “Well, I’ve had it with humanity.”
But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.
But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.
But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”
Who would have thought that Patton Oswalt would be the one to pull me out of the funk that I was in? He, along with Mr. Rogers really helped me. Fred Rogers, whose words we all needed to hear today:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
It really is about what you’re looking for–If you’re looking for a reason to hate and be cynical and afraid, you will find them. There are plenty to go around. But if you “look for the helpers,” you can’t help but be encouraged and comforted by all the caring people in this world. Patton Oswalt and Mr. Rogers…. An unlikely tag team to remind me once again that love is stronger than hate.
Sometimes, we see a person do something horrible and we get scared. We allow ourselves to get even more filled with fear than we already were. Other times, something horrible happens and we react with bravery and selflessness and kindness and love. And we leave our fear behind us. Where it belongs…. Those are my Thoughts. And here are my Prayers: Let this be one of those times. Let this be a time that we observe senseless violence and terror and we refuse to let it bring about hatred and cynicism and fear. Let us be inspired by the helpers. Let us look acts of violence in the eye, and tell them they are outnumbered. Let this be one of those times that an act of hatred works to build our resolve to love. Thank you Patton Oswalt. Thank you Mr. Rogers. Thank you Jesus! Amen.