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More united than divided

Jack Rooney | Friday, April 19, 2013

While Skyping with my older brother on Sunday night, and into the wee hours of Monday morning, I asked him if he had any suggestions for what to write about this week. After doing some quick “This Week in History” research, I discovered that Wednesday marked the 43rd anniversary of Apollo 13 returning safely (and barely) back to earth. It was settled, I would write about the space program and the need for more funding and more exploration and scientific discovery in this country. It is really quite a romantic topic, and it would have made for an excellent column to wrap up my semester writing for The Observer.
Come Monday, though, things changed, as they so often do. I had not yet begun to write my column when news reports began trickling in that several explosions occurred near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. So much for my advanced planning. This is what I had to write about now. Plenty have done it already, and many will continue to write about and comment on Monday’s events as we learn more, but as long as I still had this platform, these precious column inches, I needed to add my voice.
Throughout the course of this semester, I have (for the most part) written about politics in this country from my personal liberal perspective. Events like those that transpired Monday, however, provide a tragic reminder that there is so much more to our world than the polarized politics and trivial matters on which we focus so much of our attention. As President Obama said in a statement Monday: “On days like this there are no Republicans or Democrats – we are Americans, united in concern for our fellow citizens.” More than that, though, we are all human beings, and at the end of the day, there is so much more that unites us than divides us.
Unfortunately, there is still plenty that divides us, or at least tries to. Though the media placed so much attention, and deservedly so, on Boston for the majority of this week, evil continued to reveal itself throughout the world. On Monday in Iraq, days before the first elections since U.S. troops withdrew in December of 2011, a series of car bombs killed at least 55 civilians, injuring many more. On Tuesday, a terrorist attack in Pakistan killed at least nine and injured dozens more. For the past few years, the people of Syria have been subjected to an oppressive and violent government and over 70,000 have lost their lives in the fight for the type of freedom we enjoy every day.
My unfortunate point is tragedy surrounds us. It is always present, and it will likely never go away. But it does not defeat us and it most certainly does not define us. After watching the footage and seeing the pictures from Monday, these words could not be truer. Looking at footage from September 11 and the Oklahoma City bombing yields the same result.
In any tragic situation, there are always people whose immediate reaction is not to flee for safety but rather to run into the flames and into danger in order to help. Most of the time these people are firefighters, paramedics and police officers, but Monday’s events in Boston again showed us that in extraordinary situations, humans are capable of extraordinary things. Runners with medical training, who had just finished one of the most grueling races in the world ran just a little bit further into the blast zone to provide crucial immediate care, with complete disregard for their own safety. Thousands of Bostonians opened their homes to marathoners who were unable to return to their hotels. In short, the goodness of humanity won the day, even in the face of evil and tragedy.
There will always be evil in the world. There will always be senseless violence and unexplainable tragedy. But even more than that, there will always be an unconquerable human spirit that will tirelessly seek to overcome all of the evil, violence and tragedy. So don’t just look for the helpers, be a helper. Contribute to the goodness of the world and never stop working to eradicate the evil. Pray for peace and then put that prayer into action. With enough faith, hope and love, we just might attain it.

Jack Rooney is a freshman studying political science.  He can be contacted at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.