In an office conversation about the tragedy at the Boston Marathon this morning, someone told me I should, "Take it easy for awhile," when I mentioned that I was registered for the Chicago Marathon in October.
After the 1986 Challenge explosion, I seriously considered being an astronaut. (Yes, I was 7, but still.) I moved to California by myself in 1999 and I still don't know anyone who has been on Cops. I was also in Germany on 9/11 and traveled all over the place with my American passport when they were telling people here in the US not to leave home. Life is full of risk. Those were some of the most awesome times I've had in my life. (Besides becoming an astronaut, which never happened.)
Every morning I get of bed, brush my teeth (etc.), and drive to work. By 8:00 AM every day, I have literally put my life into the hands of thousands of people - the people who purify my water at the Santa Clara Water District, the people who make my toothpaste, and the other drivers on the road. . .
Although a bit lofty, the message about the nice people out numbering the bad people in Patton Oswald's blog yesterday really rang true for me. If you don't believe that people are inherently good, where does that put you? How do you live everyday thinking that someone is out to get you? People can't function that way - we have to watch out, make good choices, and trust a few people. Imagine if you stopped eating, or driving, or sending your children to school?
I think about this a lot when I ride my bike on busier streets. At any second, a normal driver could make a miscalculated turn or run a red light. Worse, a terrible person would just hit me with their car out of spite. I'm sure there are people who would watch me drown, but most people would at least call for help, maybe more.
(You should really read that last link, it's wonderful!)
The thing is - I tend to trust people. I tend to believe that people are inherently good and mean no harm. With some extra precautions on my part, I will make eye contact with that driver before I go across an intersection. I will stop at the stop sign. I keep in mind that it might be equally as terrifying to cause the accident as much as it would be to be the victim.
True, the attack in Boston on Monday is scary and sad. But, isn't fear and avoidance the worst thing to do right now? I can't stop living my life because a very small number of people are psychotic murderous assholes. Still there are those who remain locked in their houses, who believe that everything is a conspiracy and that people are out to get them. Maybe my own ignorance is my own bliss, but I refuse to sit at home with a gun in my lap waiting for possible perpetrators.
If I feel my life is in that much danger, I will make other adjustments so I don't have to live tied up in fear. I am aware that some people don't have this choice and may be stuck in their dangerous neighborhoods or countries. But, most of us here in the USA do have a choice.
Nice people can not be in fear of living with a few psychos. It is true that tragedy strikes too often, and also to the wrong people - the nice people. The mean people of the world want you to shut down. Don't honor them. Honor life and mobility. Nice people of the world, I implore you! Take risks, see the world, ride a bike, run a marathon. . . show the bad people that you are above them and that you are not afraid.
I might say a little prayer and look over my shoulder, and I may run the entire race without an iPod blasting in my ears, but I will run the shit out of the Chicago Marathon.