What We Expect When We’re Exploding
THE EXPLOSIONS on the streets of Boston today were not the only detonations. Within minutes of the story’s appearance on various news outlets, my news feed blew up with posts from friends and public figures expressing their condolences and prayers for victims and first responders. There is, of course, nothing wrong with this. It is good to encourage others. It is good to exhort your friends to join you in prayer for the bereaved.
Catastrophes like today’s, however, can illustrate a disconcerting expectation that our favored institutions will engage in a nigh-competitive reciprocal commentary. As I noticed more and more comments from public groups, I wandered over to the President’s facebook page. I noticed the following comment:
“The republican Facebook page posted about the explosions today and offered their prayers and condolences why haven’t you or the democrat page mentioned it?”
It’s not enough to privately grieve and pray in the face of tragedy, apparently. People frequently condemn the politicization of catastrophe, but we have descended to a far deeper level when we express disappointment when our favored political party or leader fails to “post about the explosions” just because the competing party has done so. The comment reveals a fear that this tragedy might provide an opportunity for political advancement because one party lagged behind the competition in rattling off a Facebook post as simple as “Praying for Boston.” In truth, there is very little that any public figure accomplishes by posting the obligatory acknowledgement of the most recent tragedy other than preventing himself from appearing insensitive. We should not require the President to inform us that he’s praying in order to do so ourselves. The fact that we continue to expect such posturing just so “the other guy” doesn’t “get ahead” serves only to compound the dismay which I feel today.
Despite the number of people who announce that they are “Praying for Boston,” I can’t help but believe that more words were addressed to the Great Stereopticon than to God Almighty.
I do not write this lightly, because I do not wish to accuse anyone in particular for adding their voice to the chorus of solidarity for Boston. I hope that, however, we will be people who measure our words. We should realize that the announcement that we are “Praying for Boston” does very little in itself. Should we take it upon ourselves to comment during such tremulous moments, we should speak of something other than our “status” and refrain from feeding the expectation that social media is just an arena for collective hand-raising. We must think not only of what we want to say, but of why we feel the need to speak.
And, we must pray for Boston.