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The Boston Globe

Lifestyle

Commentary

Disaster brings us together — but for how long?

As was said often over the past week — perhaps most forcefully by the gathered politicians and religious leaders at Thursday’s interfaith service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross — the Boston Marathon bombers lost. They lost the instant their devices were detonated. Whatever their specific beliefs and grievances, their mistake was that they thought fear would divide us and make us smaller. Instead it pulled us together and made us bigger, as individuals and a city. The explosions and manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers that bookended the week jolted us out of the daily complacency that separates us and with blunt traumatic force reminded us of the fragile humanity we have in common.

The work now becomes sustaining that commonality. It seems easy but in practice can turn out to be absurdly difficult. Our society is crisscrossed by fault lines of class, race, political conviction, religious belief. We judge one another based on generation and gender, by the clothes we wear and the tweets we follow. The only positive thing that can be said about disaster, whether man-made or natural, is that it obliterates all that and leaves us blinking in a renewed appreciation for the reality that binds us together. And then that appreciation fades. Sooner or later, it always fades.

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