Boston proves it's not just the streets of heaven that are crowded with angels


"The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight." - Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlett in The West Wing.

Two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday afternoon. Three dead. More than 140 injured. Scores of people displaced by evacuations and closings. Millions more trying to make sense of the carnage. It was, surely, a horrific day for the participants of the Boston Marathon, the first responders and emergency personnel, the people of Boston, and anyone with a loved one gone, hurt, lost, or even in the surrounding area. For the rest of us, it was, at the very least, difficult to stomach.

On days like these—like with the shooting in Newtown and the Aurora massacre—I can't help but recall a speech from the fourth season of Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing. As trivial as it might seem that, amid all of the destruction and havoc and death and chaos, I go to sleep re-watching an 11-year-old episode of a lofty, political, network drama, I find it incredibly soothing. Martin Sheen's President Josiah Bartlett delivers a speech in the wake of a pipe bomb explosion at an American university.   Recently, I've felt the need to go back and watch "20 Hours in America" far too frequently, But, whenever I do, especially on days like yesterday, Bartlett's message about good and evil rings increasingly poignant.

Ran into the fire.

Yesterday, first responders, runners and spectators immediately ran toward the blast to help victims, disregarding the possibility of further explosions. Athletes, who had not yet finished the race when the bombs went off, ran through the finish line, but didn't stop running until they reached Mass General so that they could donate blood to help the victims. Google's Person Finder cut through the chaos to help people notify loved ones of their location and safety. The people of Boston and its surrounding community opened their doors to folks stuck in town without a place to stay. Redditors—as they so often do—took a break from lulz and Confession Bear memes to help currate information about the attack and its aftermath. A former guard for the New England Patriots rushed to the streets to help victims.

"But, every time we think we've measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we're reminded that that capacity may well be limitless."

While Aaron Sorkin's West Wing work is a fictional storyline often criticized for being hyper-idealistic, the people of Boston proved yesterday that that hyper-idealized fiction is based in fact. People are extraordinary. People rise to the occasion.

Shortly after the attacks, comedian Patton Oswalt took to Facebook to offer his thoughts and commentary on the horrible attack and what it says about humanity. His post that has since gone viral.

But I was wrong. I don't know what's going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.

But here's what I DO know. If it's one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, "The good outnumber you, and we always will."

Ran towards the destruction. It's not just the streets of heaven that are crowded with angels.