I donít want to know.
That was the thought that raced across my brain just seconds after hearing someone had triggered bombs at the Boston Marathon. I care deeply about who did it, how officials plan to catch them and how many people were hurt in the blasts, but I just really donít want to know why.
I wonít pretend that was my first thought. Like most people, the moment I heard there was another attack on U.S. soil, my brain locked on the safety of me and mine. It is an evolutionary truth: We are animals hard-wired for selfishness. That is what makes it so extraordinary when people act against that instinct and race to help others. That is absolutely not how we are designed. And yet somehow, for some incredible few, it is a second, better nature.
I am not one of those brave few. Once I was certain the attack was limited and many miles from my home, I immediately turned to body count.
Again, I wish I could say it was out of some benevolent concern for the victims, but it really had more to do with a desire to somehow limit the horror of the event.
There is a twisted equation to how we process tragedy that boils down to Distance /Magnitude = Terror. Many people dying in a place far away, thatís bad. A few people dying close is bad, also. More than 3,000 people dying in an American city on 9-11, that was terror. Ever since that day, I find myself fixating on body count, as though the death of three people makes the act any less horrific. It doesnít, but these are the ways in which we try to cope.
Finally, when the facts began to clear up and we knew how bad and how many, I asked the same questions you likely asked: Who did this? How quickly will we catch them? Why?
And at that point it struck me: I donít want to know why. I just donít care. Iím tired of trying to understand what makes people kill. Iím tired of exploring motivations and childhood triggers. I just want them caught and condemned. I donít even care about justice anymore, Iíd be happier with some Old Testament retribution.
This is, of course, wrong. Any expert source, from criminology text books to The Art of War, tells us the surest path to victory is understanding the enemyís motive. Military experts assure us it is also an important step toward real safety. We need to know what motivates those who hate us. Knowing what is going on in their minds is our best bet at turning their hearts. We really do need to know the ďwhy.Ē
And as much as I crave some old-school revenge, I realize that doesnít really work either. Vengeance doesnít make us safer. More often than not, it just confirms the enemyís beliefs and plants the seed for another generation of killers. Plus, weíre supposed to be better than that. We are a country of laws and, at least according to some, a Christian nation. There is room in neither of those systems for vengeance.
In my brain, I know all that. But still I find myself recoiling at the thought of hearing one more heart-felt tirade about oppression or imperialism and how The Bible or The Koran or ď50 Shades of Blow Stuff UpĒ gives some entitled thug the ordination to kill an 8-year-old boy, tearing his small body apart with scraps of metal and nails, leaving him to bleed out in the street in view of his injured mother and sister.
Whoever did this has a reason, I am sure of that. Just as I am sure that, whatever that reason might be, it will be lost on me.
I was raised in the church, raised to believe that God has his reasons for all things. Well, if God sees fit to come down and explain those reasons, I am happy to listen. But it was men, not God, who planted those bombs along a busy street on Monday. And their excuses, I just donít want to know.