I made a reference to my Senior Speech a while ago and I wish I had a copy somewhere because it’s pretty relevant given what happened at the Boston Marathon yesterday.
For my first three years of high school, I had planned to pick a topic that would make people laugh and there’d be glowing smiles throughout the auditorium when I was done. (Yes, there was a lot of laughter when I blurted “BLEEAAAHH!” into the microphone, but I hadn’t written that part down.) My eventual topic was something very close to my heart, but not in a good way: I talked about fear.
All throughout school, I was horribly shy. My only date in high school was my senior prom, which I was pressured into attending by my parents. (I love them to pieces, but they had no idea how little I wanted to go until years later.) In the weeks following their decision, I managed to ask one girl if she’d go with me—a Brazilian foreign exchange student—but she already had a date. As a result, I was set up with one of my older brother’s friends. Who got back together with an ex-boyfriend several days before prom. Nope, not an awkward experience at all.
By avoiding most social situations, it was easier for me to limit the potential for agonizing shame if I made a foolish mistake when interacting with others. That’s a long sentence with big words that can be narrowed down to “I was afraid of looking stupid.” There were a handful of us my senior year who labeled ourselves “The Outcasts” because we didn’t really fit in with any other social group. I felt more comfortable there, but not completely comfortable: one of the girls asked me to the Sadie Hawkins dance that year (girls would ask the guys) and I panicked. I told her I had a debate tournament that day, which was true. The whole truth was that debate tournaments finish in the afternoon, so I could have gone to both with no trouble.
I’m not trying to make a laundry list of social awkwardness for you all, but we’re almost back to my point here. Those of us on the debate team were always scheduled to give our speeches at the beginning of the school year, so I didn’t have a lot of time to bounce topics around in my head. Who knows, maybe I would have convinced myself to talk about something else if I’d had another few weeks to think about it, but I ended up latching on to the one thing that had been consistent during my existence in high school: fear.
Mind you, I didn’t just walk up to the microphone and say, “You people scare the hell out of me.” I ended up talking about how effectively Nazis kept people in check: occasionally search a few houses at random for Jews. My introduction was about a study where scientists put some electrodes on rats and would shock them from time to time. When the rat pushed a pedal, the shock would stop. Rats that got zapped on a regular schedule—say, once every four hours or something—would be ready to step on the pedal and didn’t get shocked very much.
As for the rats that got zapped at random times… their health deteriorated, their hair fell out and they would step on the pedal. A lot. All the time.
Apply that to the citizens in Germany in the 30′s and 40′s. They might have lived peacefully most of the time, but once in a while, a group of soldiers would enter someone’s house and trash the premises, all in the name of searching for Jews. It could happen later today, tomorrow, next week. It could happen to your friends, family, neighbors… it could happen to you. People were scared, they cowered and they lived in fear.
Part of the conclusion of my speech was a list of people in modern times who might be afraid and I almost slipped “or giving your Senior Speech” in there. Almost. I didn’t because I didn’t want to make light of the speech. When everyone was laughing before, I was telling the room, “Okay, calm down, this is a serious speech.” I wanted it to stay serious. No one knew it, but I was baring my soul behind that podium. Making a joke like that at the end may have been clever, but… it was a serious speech.
Why did I just burden all of you with these really depressing stories about my youth? It’s because of this:
TERRORISM 101: FEAR IS AWESOME
Truthfully, the bombs that exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon were pretty simplistic and/or sloppy if they were terrorist work. They didn’t explode at the same time, two of the four didn’t explode at all… not very effective if you’re trying to scare a nation. But that’s just what explosions like that do: they scare a lot of people.
That’s when a bunch of places go into lockdown, people hide in their basements and they live in fear. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Who knows when the next attack might come? There might never be another bomb, but can you be sure? Of course not!
TERRORISM 201: FDR WAS NOT AWESOME
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” — Franklin Delano Roosevelt
There might never be another bomb, but can you be sure? Of course not! Should people hide in their basements and live in fear? No. Not now, not ever.
We’re never going to stop bad things from happening once in a while, but there are so many more good things that happen all the time. Hell, there were good things happening immediately after the explosions. People braved potential danger to help others, runners went straight from the finish line to the Red Cross to donate blood, locals opened their homes to strangers who needed shelter.
Screw the statistics they’re showing on the news and videos of how horrific the event was. There’s no question that it was tragic; my heart goes out to the victims and their friends and families. Should we focus entirely on that, worry about the next explosion that might never come, ignore all the good things that happened and are continuing to happen? No. Not now, not ever.