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

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
Rob Seimetz
Measuring Manhoods
Edward Curtin
Sorry, You’re Not Invited
Vern Loomis
Winning the Lottery is a State of Mind
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
David Yearsley
The Ethos of Mayfest
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail