Terrorist attacks can’t defeat our shared humanity

by Kenneth Leonard

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.” — Fred Rogers

Moments after explosions devastated the finish line at the Boston Marathon, a phenomenon occurred that served to characterize today’s events more than anything else. Bystanders rushed toward the smoke and the apparent danger to help the victims.

Police and rescue workers confirmed the sources of the explosions were improvised explosive devices, and there have been no developments so farregarding the entity responsible for these devices. Speculation is a booming industry in the aftermath of these types of tragedies, and whispers of alleged terrorism began spreading within moments of the event. It’s essential to remember to focus only on what we do know. First, according to the Boston Police Department, more than 130 people were injured and at least three are dead as a result of an attack by an unknown assailant. Second, there was an immediate outpouring of support in the form of volunteers, who were on hand in Boston helping those in need, in addition to an untold amount of multitudes pledging assistance from around the country. This should serve to remind us all that for every act of senseless violence there are untold thousands of acts of bravery, empathy and charity.

So, while the Alex Joneses and Rupert Murdochs of the world would like nothing more than for this tragedy to stir up fear and xenophobia, the real story today revolves around how human beings unite whenever it’s time to overcome adversity. The effectiveness of an act of terrorism is measured by the reaction of affected citizens. Perspective is the greatest tool that can be used against terrorist ideology, which exists to perpetuate fear and panic. When bombs go off and people are confused and looking for answers, it’s way too easy for members of the media to capitalize on fear. Instead of participating in this vicious cycle, the very cycle that allows terrorism to remain a viable form of expression for the deranged, I urge you to look beyond the intentions of whoever set the bombs and focus on what actually happened.

In the wake of tragedy, people came together. Fear and devastation were overwhelmed by compassion.

Of course, there were people who contributed to the spread of fear and fed into speculation, but the best thing we can do is collectively ignore those people and learn how to distinguish conjecture from actual information. This is how we stop the spread of terror and every -ism that would create situations to capitalize on emotional vulnerability. When we focus on the kindhearted actions of many, the evil perpetuated by the minority is quickly revealed to be an anomaly and not the defining characteristic of our species. This is why terrorists will never be truly successful. They misunderstand humanity. We will never be dominated by fear because our courage grows when circumstances are at their worst.

So, while watching the news and reflecting on yesterday’s events, remember how heroes rushed into the nightmare without regard for personal safety and with nothing to gain. Remember the immediacy of the responsiveness exhibited by empathetic human beings. Above all else, remember that for every monster who would attempt to terrorize a community there will always be a 100 heroes ready to rise up and show the world what humanity really is.