I Love That Dirty Water
Two bombs exploded in Boston today, killing three and wounding dozens more. The bombs detonated in Copley Square, towards the end of the Boston Marathon route. A White House official, lawmakers, and most major news networks are referring to the incident as an ‘act of terror.’ Police do not yet have a suspect in custody. Other devices have been found elsewhere in the city. An eight-year-old boy is among the dead.
Officials and reporters don’t know much, and won’t know much for a while. So here’s what I do know.
- That after the two explosions, the first thing that people did was run towards the site, removing barriers and clearing debris despite gore, smoke, and the prospect of certain death.
- Marathon runners who crossed the finish line kept running, all the way to Massachusetts General Hospital, to give blood.
- That the Boston police, despite being notorious pricks, acted like champions (and looked good while doing it).
- That runners offered up their jackets to keep each other warm.
- In a press conference with Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick, and Boston Police Commissioner Davis, a reporter wondered about conflicting reports of another device at the JFK Library in a thick Southie accent: “So do yous guys have any clue what’s actually going on?”
- That two Lutheran ministers were strolling up Commonwealth Ave, Bibles in hand, offering comfort where it was needed.
- That virtually everyone in Boston is probably listening to ‘Dirty Water’ right now.
I’m from Boston. I grew up in Belmont, spent my teen years around Cambridge, body-surfed on Cape Cod, and worked in the Berkshires. I cut my teeth in Southie and Somerville and Allston. I know that ‘pahkin’ the cah in Hahvahd Yahd’ is bullshit because there’s no parking around Harvard. I drink Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee all year round, in below-freezing temperatures. I hate the Yankees for no damn good reason.
When disaster strikes, the natural impulse for a population is to come together in solidarity, to focus on those moments of human decency that keep the hatred and terror away. There’s a sentiment floating around from comedian Patton Oswalt that captures how many people across the country feel about today’s incident:
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.”
But let me tell you this, more specifically: you don’t fuck with Boston. We can be surly, rude, and perpetually obnoxious; we’re not the biggest city, or the best city, but we’re where America started. We fought the British before there was even an America; our last disaster was a giant molasses flood. It takes more than a coward, armed with explosives, killing from afar, to keep us from being good to each other.
My friends and family are safe. We’ve reached the point in the news cycle where the networks are moving beyond the details and looking for for meaning: why did this happen? Who did this? What do they want? It doesn’t matter, really: hundreds of miles from home, watching my hometown caked in smoke and dirt and blood, the only answer I have is this: who cares? We’re not going anywhere. We love that dirty water. You don’t fuck with Boston, because Boston fucks back.