We know nothing of import yet, and won’t for several hours, if not an entire day. That is the way of these things, and the truth of them.
Nonetheless, the circus has begun. Each network has already offered its own (or its several own) opinions on who caused the bombing, who planted the bombs, and why. They’ve thrown up experts onto the screen, some with actual expertise but none with actual knowledge. How do I know? Because anyone who does actually know something is busy right now, with, you know, the investigating and the saving lives and stuff. People who know are too busy contributing for them to waste time satisfying our ghoulish need for details.
The terror of actions like this, for me, does not lie in the risks we face or the suddenly-heightened sense of my own mortality. The terror lies in the amazing speed with which this sort of event divides us, inflames us, sets us against each other. It did not take long for World Net Daily to come up with its list of suspect ideologies to be blamed. It didn’t take long for CNN. It didn’t take long for me — and that’s what scares me. I have to keep reminding myself that we don’t know anything. We don’t know if this is the work of a terrorist group (foreign or domestic), or a lone madman, or someone with a grudge or a defective sense of grandeur or an aching consuming need to grab our attention.
It is so easy to take such an event and slot it into our comfortable pre-existing narratives. We spend our time imagining the worst of our opponents, so when the awful happens, we say “I can see how [group X] might be behind this sort of thing”, and then we seamlessly convince ourselves that they are behind it, and eventually we forget that we’re just speculating.
There is a nebulous, magical radius around the site of a catastrophe. Within that distance, we find the extraordinary ordinary people, the ones who run into fire and smoke and fear, who reach across the yawning divide and yank people back, the ones who won’t give up and won’t let go and who unthinkingly do the right thing. But beyond that special radius, it seems we fall prey to the worse angels of our nature: We accuse and tar and disdain; we assume the worst; we fall upon each other in anger and accusation.
So, tonight, let us remember this: We don’t know anything yet. The who and the how and the why will come out, will be known, will be important, but not tonight. We don’t know anything tonight. How this happened and how it could have been avoided and how it might happen again — these are questions of weight, but not right now. We don’t know anything — except that some have died, many are injured, and many more are grieving.
Tonight, that is our truth.
[Note: This post has been edited for spelling and grammar.]