On Sunday afternoon, Dana, Lily, and I were in Copley Square in Boston for a brunch with friends, at the Mandarin Oriental hotel on Boylston Street. As I now recall, I was complaining bitterly about a number of things. First, I’d lost my passport (it’s since been found). Second, we hadn’t correctly timed Lily’s feedings, making us extremely late for the brunch, and causing Lily to scream hysterically the entire car ride. Third, parking (and later, locating) our car at the Prudential Center was a logistical nightmare. Fourth, I’d recently received by email a profoundly silly paper, claiming that one of my results was wrong based on a trivial misunderstanding. Fifth … well, there were other things that were bothering me, but I don’t remember what they were.
Then the next day, maybe 50 feet from where we’d been, the bombs went off, three innocent human beings lost their lives and many more were rendered permanently disabled.
Drawing appropriate morals is left as an exercise for the reader.
Update (Friday, 7AM): Maybe the moral is that you shouldn’t philosophize while the suspects are still on the loose. Last night (as you can read anywhere else on the web) an MIT police officer was tragically shot and killed in the line of duty, right outside the Stata Center, by one of the marathon bombers (who turn out to be brothers from Chechnya). After a busy night—which also included
robbing a 7-Eleven (visiting a 7-Eleven that was coincidentally also robbed—no novelist could make this stuff up), carjacking a Mercedes two blocks from my apartment, and randomly throwing some more pressure-cooker bombs—one of the brothers was killed; the other one escaped to Watertown. A massive hunt for him is now underway. MIT is completely closed today, as is Harvard and pretty much every other university in the area—and now, it seems, all stores and businesses in the entire Boston area. The streets are mostly deserted except for police vehicles. As for us, we heard the sirens through much of the night, but didn’t know what they were about until this morning. Here’s hoping they catch the second asshole soon.
Another Update (Friday, 9AM): As the sorry details emerge about these Tsarnaev brothers, it occurs to me that there’s another moral we can draw: namely, we can remind ourselves that the Hollywood image of the evil criminal genius is almost entirely a myth. Yes, evil and genius have occasionally been found in the same person (as with a few of the Nazi scientists), but it’s evil and stupidity that are the far more natural allies. Which is the most optimistic statement I can think to make right now about the future of the human race.
Yet More Updates (Friday, 3PM): The whole Boston area is basically a ghost town now, with the streets empty on a beautiful spring day and the sound of helicopters filling the air. I was just up on my roofdeck to watch, and never saw anything like it. I can’t help thinking that it sets a terrible precedent to give a couple doofus amateur terrorists the power to shut down an entire metropolitan area. Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan points to a spectacularly stupid tweet by one Nate Bell:
I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine?
This sounds like a gun nut projecting his own disturbed psychology onto other people. I’m not actually scared, but if I was, owning a gun would do nothing whatsoever to make me less scared (quite the contrary). What would make me think I could win a gunfight against a frothing lunatic—or that I’d want to find out? When it comes to violence, the only thing that calms my nerves is a democratic state having a near-monopoly on it.
What else? It was chilling to watch the Tsarnaev brothers’ aunt, the one in Toronto, babble incoherently on TV about how wonderful her nephews were (a striking contrast to the remorseful uncle in Maryland). If it emerges that anyone else in this family (including the parents, or the older brother’s wife) had any foreknowledge about the killing spree, then I very much hope they’ll face justice as well.
In other news, Lily had an eventful day too: she finally figured out how to squeeze her toy ball with her hands.