I think that what we call the murders on Boylston Street in Boston on Patriots’ Day is important. The names we give to things are always important as everyone knows, of course, because they signify what we make of them. They signify the meaning; they signify the importance, dignity and impact we grant them. So it matters, what we call the taking and maiming of innocent life, the destruction of individuals and families on the sidewalks of the Back Bay.
My personal choice of name is mass hate crime and first degree murder. Why not terrorism, one might ask. Because I don’t think we are terrified. We are hurt. We are horrified. We are resolved to see justice — in all its many equal and exacting facets– done. We are blessed to have the most skilled and talented and best equipped investigators in the history of humanity to find out who did this. I believe that most of us are “angry” only in the way that a mother bear gets angry when she sees someone who might represent a threat to her cubs. We feel a powerful surge of adrenaline, maternal-like love and moral and physical strength that says to the cowards who would threaten babies: you judge for yourself how scared we are as you run as fast you can for the rest of the short time you have before you are in custody.
What we name things is important. Let’s not get snagged on cliché. I drove with Chief Dan O’Leary (name dropping!) of the Brookline PD from Brookline Village to the Village section of Everett to a meeting on Tuesday morning. It was a day as blue and gold and beautiful as Monday had been. Some things were different. The only boats on the Charles were a State Police craft and a Duckboat. Traffic was a little lighter than a normal school vacation week.
But joggers jogged, college students bunched at the foot crossings near the BU Bridge. If you hadn’t known otherwise that two bombs had exploded on so many innocents you could not have deduced it from the scene around you. An oblivious bike rider on Comm. Ave. (not representative of the majority of bicycle operators) sailed past the driver’s door without seeming to notice the 2-ton (unmarked police) car there, then shrugged at us as he pedaled by, showing us the apex of his hairy arse crack, an unwelcome sight on any day. The real change on Tuesday?
Walkers, bike and auto operators, other than Arse Crack Armstrong, were NICE. No horns, no fahhk youuu, no birds flipped, no mass jaywalking, no getting cut off.
Sure, it was less than 24 hours later and we all felt a lot, still. But let’s not give up a win so readily. It wasn’t “terrorism.” It was a cowards’ hate crime and mass murder, whether the perps are from Kansas or Kandahar. In Jill Lepore’s should-be-required-reading, The Name of War, a 17th century Englishman in Plymouth can’t understand who the Massachusetts people are. why they fight or how they fight. He says that one must not give “the name of war” to the 1675 King Philip’s War. Let’s flip that on its head. We are not terrorized. We are going to go to the BPL and Arlington St. church and the Public Garden and Copley Square as soon as they open.
We are not afraid.
Those of us who did not suffer death, mutilation or loss of loved ones will be back to normal when we start giving one another the finger again at the BU Bridge. Try not to make it someone just getting discharged from the Brigham. Though if you do get flipped off, smile. The real Boston has won.