It’s been a week, hasn’t it?
- Boston Marathon. Two young Chechen males bombed the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. That’s bad. First responders in Boston lived up to the heroic archetype. That’s good. Many marathon runners crossed the finish line and kept running until they hit the hospital; so many, in fact, that the hospital had to start turning people away. That’s inspiring. Regardless of the subpar performance of the press this week, and setting aside a “we must do something, no matter how useless” response from federal leaders, Boston proves a point: You can bloody Americans, but you can never kill the American soul. God bless Boston.
- Gun bill fails. Joe Manchin and Harry Reid proved incapable of getting a federal gun bill through the Senate. President Obama was mad about that vote — more angry, in fact, than he seemed about Boston, and he berated Republicans directly with victims of gun violence (Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and families from Newtown, CT) as stage props behind him. America’s gun laws are a mishmash of crazy; reform at both the state and federal levels seems necessary. But wrenching regulation ever-tighter isn’t the sort of reform we need, nor is using the grief of victims as a rhetorical ploy for strong-arming flawed bills the kind of tactic we need to advance the legislative process.
- West, TX plant explosion. A fertilizer plant in Texas exploded. Many are dead, wounded or displaced. We send them our prayers, and we mourn the volunteer firefighters who lost their lives in the explosion.
- West Michigan floods. The torrent of early April rain led to record flooding. The Grand River crests today, considerably higher than the previous record flood of 1904. Lots of prep work and lots of localized flooding, but no real sense of panic or disruption seems to grip the city. Infrastructure planning over the last few decades has undoubtedly paid handsome dividends now, even as we chuckle a bit as Mayor Heartwell counsels people to “shower with a buddy” to reduce stress on the water treatment plant.
- New bishop in Grand Rapids. This week, we learned that Pope Francis has named David John Walkowiak, a priest from Cleveland, to succeed Walter Hurley as bishop of Grand Rapids. For local Catholics, this is a big deal. Many dislike Hurley, although they struggle at identifying why. Insiders within the diocese didn’t appreciate the clean break between Hurley — who aggressively pursued parish consolidations and cleaned the roster of abusive priests — and Robert Rose, who was significantly more lax and let a handful of lay people effectively run the diocese during his tenure. (Kevin Britt actually succeeded Rose, but he served only a year before dying unexpectedly in 2005.) I worked with Bishop Hurley as one of his masters of ceremonies. He’s a good man, and a far-sighted administrator. I will eagerly welcome Bishop-elect Walkowiak, but I will miss Hurley.
What to make of all of this?
First, the words of Blessed John Paul II should be declaimed from the rooftops: Be not afraid. Neither guns nor bombs nor wild floods should shake our cores. We will survive; we always do.
Second, we should remember just how lucky we really are. Even when our lives seem to suck, we still enjoy unheard-of levels of prosperity and freedom. Whether we’re cleaning up after a terror attack or sandbagging before a flood, we still are better off than so many others in the world. Truly, even our worst days are better than the best days of many people in North Korea or sub-Sahara Africa. Remember that.
Third, we should not allow tragedy — man-caused or natural — to serve as an ideological inflection point. Bad things happen. If we let those bad things turn us into a herd of panicked minds, shepherded by opportunist politicians, then we help the first evil to grow deeper and more corrosive than it otherwise would have been. So when you see victims on stage, using their tears to affect legislation, the only right answer is to stand athwart the legislative process saying Stop.
This week was one for the history books. Let’s work to ensure that our response to these events earns fair treatment in those history books.