Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Is The World Going to Shit?

Yesterday's tragedy in Boston was just another event in what seems to be a sequence of tragedies that makes me wonder, Is this world going to shit?  

I mean, it's hard not to think that way.  When children are being murdered in schools, when an 8 year old dies while waiting for his dad to cross a marathon finish line, when women in Syria are being systematically raped, when road side bombs in the Middle East are no longer a front page news story, when North Korea is about to unleash its terror, when U.S. Ambassadors are killed in their embassies, when there is still racism and sexism and homophobia and anti-semitism and global warming...

It makes you wonder what the hell is going on.  And if our world really is, indeed, going to shit.

I've thought on this for the past 24 hours.  And I think the answer is no.  I don't think our world is going to shit.  I think it's always been that way.

I am an avid watcher of Mad Men.  It's a great show, in part because of the acting, script, etc., but also because it gives the viewer a glimpse of a generation that we weren't really a part of - our parents' generation.  I think about what it must have been like to live in that time - to have a president, his brother, and a civil rights activist assassinated, all in succession.  To have a war going on with unbelievable carnage and political unrest and a drug culture and a sexual revolution and the Cuban Missile Crisis and murders at a university and thalidomide.

I bet a lot of people around that time thought the world was going to shit.

But lets go back further.  Lets think about slavery and the Holocaust and the attack on Pearl Harbor and religious intolerance and ethnic cleansing and the dark ages and the guillotine and the black plague.  I am not a history buff, so I'm just glossing over the major tragedies here.

But that's definitely some shit.

On September 11, 2001, I was living in London.  Due to the time difference, it was around 3pm when I heard news of planes going into the twin towers.  I stopped into a pub that had a TV, and it was packed with people.  And silent - very uncharacteristic of a pub.

At one point I ordered a pint of lager.  When I ordered, someone overheard my American accent and offered to buy it for me.  He was a man in a suit, and I am certain he was not hitting on me.  He said it was his pleasure, and that he was sorry my American innocence was being taken away from me.  I thought it was a weird thing to say, but upon further reflection, I got it.

The British are no strangers to tragedy themselves.  In fact, if you walk around London you'll notice that there are barely any garbage cans to be found.  Why?  Because in the 1970s-90s, the IRA planted bombs in garbage cans.  In fact, during this time period there were over 30 IRA bombings in London.  Over thirty!!!  No, London is no stranger to terrorism.  (Just check out this Wikipedia list of terrorist attacks in London.  It's sobering.).  And I venture to say the world isn't a stranger to such violence either.  The fact is, we in the United States have been sheltered. Notwithstanding Oklahoma City and 9/11 and school shootings and yesterday's bombings, we have been comparatively lucky.

I have read a lot of articles regarding the Boston Marathon bombing, and a lot of them lament that yesterday's violence confirms that there is nowhere that we can be safe.

I agree completely, but I don't think it's anything new.

The world is full of danger and death.  We aren't guaranteed safety in a car.  In a plane.  In a school.  In a swimming pool or or a tall building or a sporting event.  We can't even be safe in our own homes, in our own beds, while cancer or disease or infection attack us from the inside out.

This world is a crazy, dangerous place.  No one makes it out alive.  Tragedy is everywhere.  Hasn't history shown us that human suffering is inevitable?

In my moderately long life, I have accepted this.  I follow the lead of the British and I don't let it stop me from doing things.  I still drive, I still fly, I still eat things that aren't so great for me, and I will still go to public places and sporting events and concerts.  I am not the type that has an emergency plan or stockpiles canned goods.  It's just not my thing.  Everyone copes in different ways.

But what throws me for a loop, and is a new thing for me, is my children.  How do I explain this harsh world to them?  How do I break the news that not only can I not keep them safe, but that none of us, truly, are safe?

Right now my children live in a world of Disney and fairies and Santa Clause.  They haven't heard of the concept of death, apart from me explaining to Braden last weekend that we "killed" the bee that was harassing him on the playground.  They think that everyone who gets sick, gets better. They think that the world is fair and just and even.  They think that I will always be around, that I will always protect them, that the worst thing that can happen to them is that they will get one too many time outs and get their cars taken away.

At what point do I break the news that the world doesn't work that way?  And how do I help them accept what the world really is?  Is there any way to truly accept it?

I don't mean to be doom and gloom.  I know the world is a beautiful place, that there is so much joy, and so much love - I live it every day.

But last night, I held both of my boys extra tight, for as long as they would let me.  And in that moment, I felt this urge to never let them go.  To put them back where they came from - to put them back in my stomach, inside me, where I really could protect them - where I really could always hold them close.

Because now that they're out, living and breathing and getting closer and closer to one day being on their own, it seems that sometimes I just can't hold them close enough.


  1. The day the twin towers were bombed, my 2 year old was at her first day of pre-school. I had just dropped her off. My eldest was in first grade. Near the same time, Mohammed and Malvo were shooting people to death, one next to our grocery store. Anthrax was appearing in people's mail, and a train had derailed near our house, spilling bleach everywhere. It happens.

    The world always was this way, you are quite right. It is one side of human nature. I wonder how mothers in Iraq or Syria do it, raising children as bombs fall from the sky, in a war zone.

    Your children will figure out that the world is an unfair place by the time they reach 5th grade. How they will deal with that information depends, in large part, upon how you do. You believe in standing up, showing up, speaking up, loving fiercely, extending friendship and compassion, and making yourself vulnerable. They will too.


  2. I share your fear and need to protect them. I also remember 9/11 and walking in a daze through the gridlock in DC. I use to be fearless but now I am so much less so. And I have become so much more conservative; use to love public school before kids, now with kids I am seeking private if not just for their physical protection and hopes for better monitoring of bullying. Swore I would always live in the city now looking for the burbs or ward 3 because there is less crime. But I think its universal in that we all just do the best we can.

  3. Yep, I'm certain that the world has always been this way. But it's still hard to face that fact. The one good point: all the darkness makes the pinpoints of light seem brighter.

  4. I enjoyed your post and agree that the world has always been this way ... ever since the fall of man from the beautiful garden. There IS no guarantee that horrible things won't happen to us or those we love. The only way I can stay sane and raise children in this world is the Lord. I read this with my kiddos this morning: "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging...Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted in the earth." (parts of Psalm 46) It isn't knowing that God protects us from all bad things, but knowing HIM in the midst of troubling times. He is my strength and hope.


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