By Eliska Counce, TSB Columnist
Holy cats. And how has your week been? To say it’s been a tough one for Americans is quite the understatement. This particular week has been a beating, no? Mondays alone are enough to make me kind of stabby anyway, and it was tax day. So this Monday already hadn’t endeared itself to me when I got the horrifying and disturbing news that someone or some group had packed pressure cookers with ball bearings and nails and left them to explode at the finish line of America’s most prestigious foot race. As a distance runner myself, I was more than a little chilled: I’ve crossed many finish lines in my life, too. The finish line is a happy place. It’s supposed to be where you feel the most pride. And in Boston, it was where runners lost their legs and innocent bystanders lost their lives.
But this week wasn’t done with America. Tuesday, Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi and our president, Barack Obama, both received letters laced with the deadly poison ricin. There were a few fevered hours while America shared a September 11, 2001 post-traumatic stress attack while we wondered if the bombs in Boston were somehow connected with the murderous mail. Luckily, this incident was isolated from the Boston bombs; thanks to police prowess and a perp that was not exactly a Rhodes Scholar, the hillbilly Elvis impersonator from Tupelo, Mississippi was quickly rounded up.
But the week was just getting warmed up. Next, the US Senate embarrassed us all by not passing a universal background check law for the purchase of guns, despite research clearly indicating most of the country supporting this measure and the out-of-control gun violence that plagues our country uniquely. Most embarassingly, the fearless woman who wrestled the gun and magazine away from from the Tuscon shooter of Gabby Giffords, Patricia Maisch, was removed from the Senate for shouting “Shame on you!” as the Senate refused debate.
In the end, it was as President Obama said: a shameful day for Washington. I hope the NRA got background checks on the Senators they bought. Oh, I kid, I kid. Despite the fact that Facebook gathers more information on you daily than a background check for a gun ever would, it seemed like once again, greed won and Americans lost. Some of you will disagree; go on with the hating if you must. But you’re out of step with mainstream America.
And for the piece de resistance of the week in America from hell, West, Texas blew off the map with a fertilizer factory explosion, leaving around a dozen dead, hundreds injured, and more affected and displaced. A nursing home and a school were flattened. Which begs the question: who builds a school and a nursing home next to a highly explosive fertilizer plant? But I digress. And a charming little Czech community known for its roadside kolaches is a thing of our memories here in Texas.
It was not a week for the feint of heart, this week. A time, as they say, that tries human souls. Perhaps you’re struggling with the weight of it all if you’re a person who thinks or feels. That’s why in this trying time, I found some solace in a quote from Fred Rogers, who said: “When I was a boy and I saw scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find the people that are helping.'”
I look and I see the peace activist in a cowboy hat racing to save the life of a runner he’s never met before, saving him from bleeding to death in the street. I see police, firefighters, and EMS workers running towards the chaos to help any way they can. I see supplies being sent by the truckloads and hospitals full of those donating blood. I see strangers attending to strangers. I see prayers and love posted all over the internet. I watched a Boston Bruins crowd sing our national anthem with such gusto I got goosebumps and teared up. I see help for Boston and West pouring in from everywhere, all over the world. And finally, I see this wonderful missive posted by comedian Patton Oswalt:
“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. 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 a while, 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 evildoers 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.'”
Amen, brother. It’s been a hell of a week, sure. But like our president says: it’s not over yet. Take heart in these dark times. Be a little nicer, a little more patient. Smile at strangers. As long as Americans care, we will overcome. In the meanwhile, like Fred Rogers said, we must just look for the helpers. Give solace to others, and reassure yourself. We are everywhere, and we are the army of love. We are America. We are Texas. And the good outnumber the evil. And we always will.