I am a survivor ? …maybe

As many of you know, I live in Boston. So much has been made of the anniversary of the marathon bombings in the last few days that it has me thinking….

What it truly means to be a survivor. Of course we know that those who were actually at the finish line are survivors. They were at ground zero and will carry in their hearts and minds the images of that day.

Then you have all of those runners still on the course who were stopped as the confusion set in. They were not running for prizes, but for personal triumphs and now a once safe event has been forever marred. Will they take to the course this year with a little trepidation?

The days after the bombings and the shoot out in Watertown, saw survivors too. My mind goes to the poor carjack victim who ran for his life at the first opportunity. He wakes up each day, but does he go to his car? Does he drive the same route to and from work? The police and EMT workers who came to both events, did they realize what was happening. What about the strangers who could do no more at the finish line so they walked to the nearest hospital to give blood. Are they survivors?

Many a warm spring day since I have spent on Newbury and Boylston streets. I’ve eaten in the restaurants that were damaged, sat on the stairs of the Boston Public Library and wondered why violence has to be. Why innocent people have to pay for someone else’s hatred.

We will forgive, we will come back, the marathon next week will be well attended and restaurants like the Forum will be full. But, we will be slightly on our guard, now. Slightly more aware of those around us. Slightly more careful, because as a town, a community, a city we have all survived the senseless violence of that day.

Nothing has shaken our resolve, we won’t sit cowering in our houses saying “what if”, but we have lost that innocence. That “it can’t happen here” mentality. It is that common thread that weaves us together that makes us feel a kinship to those still struggling to recover one year later. It is that thread that makes us all survivors…just a little bit.

Carrie. The ultimate revenge on bullying.

Steven King was a head of his time!

When he wrote Carrie nearly 40 years ago, it’s doubtful that he envisioned the state of the US and it’s teenagers these days.

With the recent remakes of the blockbuster movie starring Sissy Spacek, my students are interested in revisiting this novel. Well it’s revisiting for me for them it’s a new book but not a new theme.

Carrie is the outcast, the brunt of all jokes and disdain of the entire student body. King himself admits he hated the character of Carrie and almost trashed the project.

Yet, he couldn’t have known what would be in store for the generation of his children’s children.

Bullying is nothing new, yet it’s increasing violent and malevolent tenure has given rise to campaigns to stop bullying and end the rash of Suicides that have occurred as a result.

Yet haven’t we known someone like Carrie? Haven’t we felt like a milder version of the misfit in our painful growing years? True many haven’t been subjected to the steady physical, psychological, mental and emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother, but what I think most can identify with is the dichotomy of being ostracized by your peers vs the disgust she provokes within us.

It’s summed up in the gym teacher’s urge to hit Carrie for her ignorance, yet at the same time, her scorn for the bullies who tortured Carrie; and then her own admonishment for not reaching out, not trying to help Carrie earlier.

This wasn’t a case of Carrie suddenly appearing on the scene. She grew up in this small town with these children. She earned their disgust early, which is classic treatment with children.

“Carrie” begs the question about what would happen if just one adult in her 16 years had taken an interest in intervening on her behalf. It shows us how we go about our day insulated in our own thoughts, never risking even to rise our thoughts above the cursory awareness of the misfits that move throughout our world.

King accurately, if not a little heavy-handed, shows how monsters are made not born. In essence “Carrie” is his Frankenstein. So can you truly blame the monster for turning on it’s creators?

What is really scary for me is that works of fiction like this are read, digested and forgotten. It’s not until real life tragedies happen that we rise above our own self-absorption to say “oh?”

Columbine comes to mind. They turned on their peers but it’s what we heard later that’s most disturbing: how many were interviewed who said they knew something bad was coming? How many moved out rather than try and solve the problem? Isn’t that what we do? How neighborhoods “fall to pot”? Don’t get involved! Don’t take the risk! Don’t even pay attention–it will go away.

Humans are a selfish lot and our more altruistic traits tend to take a back seat to our dark tendencies. It’s why folks get so amazed when someone shows a simple act of kindness. They distrust it. There has to be a motive because we aren’t kind for no reason.

When did we get so jaded? So distrustful? When did it become a crime to help out a friend, neighbor, community member just because it’s the right thing to do?

Carrie holds a mirror up to today’s society and warns us that if we don’t wake up, we are creating monsters and those monsters will turn on us viciously and violently.