FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How to Commemorate Boston

by LAURA GOTTESDIENER

The Boston Marathon course runs in only one direction. Two years ago when I ran it with an old friend, we were lucky. There was a tailwind that lifted us up so hard and so fast that the race’s top male finisher, a Kenyan named Geoffrey Mutai, clocked the fastest marathon time in recorded history. Of course, even with the tailwind I could still barely walk or think by the end of the 26.2 miles. All I really remember of the finish line is sitting down on the sidewalk and being unable to stand back up for a very long time.

Knowing that feeling, yesterday all I could imagine as I learned of bombs, overwhelmed phone lines and a suspended transit system was an exodus of exhausted runners slowly walking out of Boston, knees buckling, eyes burning, and everyone stopping once in a while to pull others back to their feet. In retrospect I realized that my imagination was simply super-imposing images of the 9/11 trek uptown onto Boylston Street. There’s a natural desire to make comparisons — and to draw contrasts. Good. Evil. Us. Them. Before. Now. The marathon’s iconic finish line written into a symbol of peaceful Americana. The lines were drawn.

The truth is that the finish line is always a chaotic place. There are crowds and clocks and signs and police and a steady stream of naked legs staggering downtown. People are shrieking and leaning over steel barricades to scan the course for fathers and co-workers and high school friends. Officials in neon yellow jackets cover collapsed runners in space blankets and call for stretchers on walkie-talkies. About ten years ago, back when I was convinced I was going to be a professional marathon runner and I would watch the race from my home on Heartbreak Hill, the first female finisher crossed the line covered in both menstrual blood and diarrhea. Everyone is drunk off either adrenaline or Sam Adams. Yes, there are all the trappings of Herculean glory surrounding the finish line of the Boston Marathon, but it is better described as a place bursting of sheer humanity — filled with as much exhaustion and thirst and struggle and chaos as life itself.

Yet, after a tragedy, we simplify. We revise our memories. On the radio on Tuesday, famed Boston sports writer Dan Shaughnessy called the event a “sweet, charming day for 117 years.” Until now, that is. This sepia-colored paint slowly coating Copley Square is the same one that scrubbed Manhattan after 9/11. It’s that soft, peaceful color that, when you stare into it, makes it easy to tell ourselves that we were at peace, and then — horrifically, unwillingly — we were thrust into war.

We know that’s not the reality. And as much as I didn’t want to think yesterday about the drone strike in Pakistan that killed five people as the soon-to-be marathoners were sleeping Sunday night, or the 45 inmates on hunger strike in Guantanamo who are, right now, being force-fed through their noses, I required myself to. We should all require ourselves to, because violence doesn’t travel in only one direction. It’s cyclical.

The International Association of Athletics Federation doesn’t recognize Geoffrey Mutai’s time as the fastest marathon on record. No real runners thought it would. Even though the Boston Marathon is considered one of the most difficult, most humbling and most iconic marathons in the world, everyone knows one directional-courses don’t count. They’re not fair. Even worse, they are dangerous and unpredictable. True, sometimes you get lucky — as I did two years ago, as U.S. residents are almost every day. But when the wind shifts, it swings around hard and fast. And it always shifts.

Shortly after the bombings, President Obama went on national television to declare that the U.S. government would hunt down and punish the perpetrators. What he didn’t talk about, and what we mostly don’t talk about, is that we live in a world steeped in violence, mass shootings and attacks on civilians. That we help construct a world where cities shutter school and hospitals to increase police budgets, where arms dealing is a billion-dollar industry and where two U.S.-launched wars over ten years have resulted in only more lost lives.

Instead of staying on this same course, perhaps we can instead stagger uphill towards peace. Perhaps we can run toward an idea of nationalism that does not include committing acts abroad that we consider unconscientious at home. After an act of violence occurs, an end to militarism may seem like a delusional, utopian goal — an epic, super-human undertaking. But so is running a marathon. And if tens of thousands of athletes can return to Boston’s race next year — as you know they will, as I plan to do — then there’s no reason that, until then, we can’t cheer for peace as loudly as the crowds in Boston. There’s no reason that we can’t all take part in a marathon’s original challenge: to defy the limits of what everyone believes is possible.

Laura Gottesdiener is the author of A DREAM FORECLOSED: BLACK AMERICA AND THE FIGHT FOR A PLACE TO CALL HOME forthcoming this summer from Zuccotti Park Press, www.zuccottiparkpress.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 22, 2017
Mike Whitney
Liberals Beware: Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas
John Grant
On Killers and Bullshitters*
Peter Linebaugh
Catherine Despard, Abolitionist
Patrick Cockburn
The Bitter Battle for Mosul
Ted Rall
Sue the Bastards? It’s Harder Than You Think
Yoav Litvin
The Emergence of the Just Jew
Kim Scipes
Strategic Thinking and Organizing Resistance
Norman Pollack
Mar-a-Lago, Ideological Refuge: Berchtesgaden, II
Fred Donner
Nixon and the Chennault Affair: From Vietnam to Watergate
Carl Kandutsch
Podesta vs. Trump
Ike Nahem
To the Memory of Malcolm X: Fifty Years After His Assassination
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Tough Talk Won’t Fix Chicago
Paul Donnelly
Betsy DeVos and the War on Public Education
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
The End of an Alliance for Police Reform
Richard Lawless
Wall Street Demanded the Nuclear Option and the Congress Delivered
Liaquat Ali Khan
Yes, Real Donald Trump is a Muslim!
Ryan LaMothe
“Fire” and Free Speech
CounterPunch News Service
Bloody Buffalo Billboards
February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
Stephen Cooper
Steinbeck’s Road Map For Resisting Donald Trump
February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail