April 16, 2013
The Boston Marathon – where participants for 117 years have celebrated the human body and spirit – is an institution as old as us, NEAVS, one of the first animal protection organizations in the world now just coming out of our 117th year. Yesterday as the flags of nations from every corner of the globe flew at the finish line, we saw again the destructiveness of those who wish to smoke out the human spirit, set fire to values that give humans our finest moments, and replace all that with crippling fear, injury, and even death. Our staff left as soon as the news hit, some walking home if they could to avoid public transit. Just minutes from our office, some had to travel in the direction of the chaos. Thankfully the good people we call our staff, as well as a local board member, made it home safely. We all spent the rest of the day watching to see if the news could inform us and set some direction to our swirling thoughts.
As the newscasts repeated themselves over and over in the absence of new or concrete information about the victims, the perpetrators, the reasons … I watched my emotions move continuously from disbelief, to shock, to tears for everything and everyone. I was struck by the images on the screen – a gentleman with good years on him, stumbling from the blast after having just run 26 noble miles in testament to how age need not stop us in our tracks; a father of a young infant holding his precious bundle close to his chest with the child’s head lovingly protected in his cupped hands as they dashed to safety; and a woman between barricades on her knees in panicked prayer, there on the pavement, hoping that someone was listening. I was struck again and again in each fleeting image by the immediacy of our shared pain.
The back drop of what I was watching was not just the symbolic target of the event – a Patriots Day celebration in Massachusetts, when the world comes to Boston, birthplace of America’s freedom. I saw also that the stage for this attack was in front of the Boston Public Library (BPL), the first free library in the United States where all people were allowed to borrow material to take home and read, to learn and wonder about life and art and wisdom and knowledge. Founded in 1852, the BPL now holds some 24 million works. It is home to early editions of Shakespeare; volumes from the personal library of patriot John Adams; papers of William Lloyd Garrison, a leader in the anti-slavery movement; a collection on the Sacco and Vanzetti case of prejudicial injustice; and archives of the Handel and Haydn Society. Simply stated, it holds within its granite arms a collection of art, music, human thought, emotion, and progressive social activism. Within its collection it tells the story of who we are, both proud and terrible, and who we aspire to be. Just outside its doors, the bombs went off.
The perverse genius of whoever is responsible for this attack is that they appreciate what matters to humans. They understand the human intellect and heart. Which is what makes it all the more incomprehensible. Why would anything that precious be the target of what must be destroyed? Certainly, the violence humans are capable of must be obliterated. The ignorance and bigotry with which we sometimes approach humans different than us, or other species, must end. And the voracity with which we are destroying the planet must stop. But none of this is the target. Instead, it is the very essence of the human spirit – the only possible fertile soil for the seeds of a more compassionate world – that is their mark. Yesterday, on the course, you were offered life-sustaining water and attention no matter your citizenship, gender, race, age, or wealth. You were cared for and celebrated equally. It is this spirit that cannot be destroyed if humans, animals, and the earth herself are to survive.
NEAVS stands against those whose hearts have hardened, those whose minds are contaminated by hatred and self-righteousness. We cannot let madness become our reality. Indeed, easier said than done, but like most medicine it is a bitter truth that once swallowed can heal us – not only as a city, or nation, or species, but as a world with all of its gifts and wonders.
Theodora Capaldo, EdD
On behalf of everyone at NEAVS