America, What Have We Become?


Shortly after the attack in Boston, there was a viral Facebook post that particularly caught my attention. It depicted the Statue of Liberty with her head buried in her hands with the words "America, what have we become?"

I'm still not sure what the person who created this picture meant to convey. I've come up with a few possibilities, but the concepts aren't worth expressing.

Instead, I'd like to answer the question as best I can.

Let us start with the Boston Marathon. Here we see people from all walks of life, from all ages, striving to be excellent at something that most people cannot do at all. Don't think of it as running for twenty-six miles. Think of it as running for hours on end. It requires tremendous endurance.

And we as a people value this quality so much, that we turn out by the thousands just to watch. We stand at the finish line and cheer on our family, our friends, and total strangers. We recognize the years of preparation and training it takes to make it to that finish line. We celebrate each victory as each person crosses that line, and we try to emulate their stamina.

If you go to one of these races, you walk away wanting to do something. You may not run twenty-six miles, but lots of life's challenges require endurance. These runners radiate it, and share it. And we radiate it when we apply the inspiration and others are inspired by us. It goes on and on.

That endurance, that excellence, is probably what attracted the bombers on some level. Strike at excellence and endurance—those are exactly the qualities that thwart terrorism.

Of course evil always gets the opposite of what it wants. Yes, lives were lost. People were maimed. The pain, physical and emotional, is beyond what most of us can imagine—and don't try. You don't have the Grace to deal with it since it's not your challenge today and you don't need that Grace.

But now we see not the endurance of a man or woman running twenty-six miles. We see the endurance of a Man who's son is dead and the rest of his family is wounded—and he goes on!

We see the endurance of a man who's lost one son in Afghanistan and another to suicide. Not only does he go on but he rushes to needs of the injured and saves a man who identified one of the bombers!

And how about that man, who's first thoughts upon waking up with no legs were to tell someone he knew who dropped the bag at his feet!

We see the endurance of hundreds of people who leaped into action to save lives. And then the endurance of the men and women who searched for the murderers until they were discovered.

We see the courage—even that word seems so inadequate. The people killed and wounded during the hunt for these terrorists knew they were walking in a dark place. They knew Death lurked around the corner. And they strode through the darkness anyway.

Funny thing about Darkness. It shows very well who's got the courage to carry the Light.

And they radiate that courage and we are all energized by it, and we want to carry the Light too.

That is what America has become. We are people who value courage and endurance. We share it with each other—especially in the midst of the darkest times.

And this week, we learned that these qualities are not isolated to one place.

In Texas, firefighters fought a losing battle at a fertilizer plant. I cannot imagine the courage it would take to go into a burning fertilizer plant. Very few things are more explosive. They new that if the plant exploded, it would level everything for several city blocks. That explosion was a near certainty and they knew it—evacuation orders had gone out before the blast. Anyone at ground zero would be killed and they knew that too.

And they stood at ground zero and tried anyway.

Then others rushed to save the wounded, and find the dead. They rushed to help the trapped and console the survivors. Soon they'll rush to help rebuild.

The Darkness flowed over the land. But now you could clearly see who was carrying the Light.

In a Boston suburb, a man who had committed unthinkable atrocities lay hiding in a boat. He was  bleeding, but armed with and dangerous still.  The firepower to destroy him in the blink of an eye was available. He could have simply been allowed to bleed to death. Few would argue that he deserved better.

What did we do?

We took him alive.

It was the most dangerous, most difficult path. Certainly it was done for practical reasons. We need to know everything this man knows so that we can prevent other attacks. That's really easy to reason from a keyboard hundreds of miles away. But on the ground? In Boston? When you've got the image of the blood of children burned into your memory forever?

How much mercy is required to pull that off?

How much strength is required? How much restraint? How much discipline? How much courage, when this man could have been loaded with explosives?

Surrounded by police, each and every one capable of destroying this man, this man still breathes. Believe me when I say there are police in other countries that do not limit deadly force to situations where it is absolutely necessary to maintain the safety of the public. Our police do.

What has America become?

It's a country that values the courage and endurance and the mercy needed to carry the Light.

By those qualities we define our heroes.

God bless them one and all.



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Wednesday, January 22, 2020
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