Wow, the cobwebs around this place are terrible, aren’t they?
So a lot has happened since my last post- I graduated, passed the bar exam, I’m in job search hell, and oh, right, someone tried to blow up the Boston Marathon and then the whole city and surrounding suburbs went into high alert for a day looking for him.
What has ALSO happened is a bunch of people who don’t live here, who weren’t here, who didn’t live through this past week with us have decided that they get to explain to us what our experience was. That were under martial law, that we’re sheeple who will cower in our homes just because the government told us to, that no one needs a gulag, because we’ll look ourselves up.
What happened was this: not long after midnight on Friday morning, police in Watertown (a suburb bordering Cambridge, Newton, and Boston) engaged in a running gun battle with what they were pretty sure were the bombing suspects. Grenades and IEDs were thrown. I heard the explosions of those bombs from my house in Medford, about 4 miles away as the crow flies. My roommate and I stayed up until nearly 2 am watching the news. I went to bed, because I had to be at work in the morning and figured that it would all be over by then. She stayed up until nearly 5:30.
When I woke up, I checked my email, which included a note from Inman Oasis (in Inman Square) that they were closed “until the Red line started running again.” I got up, and Twitter said the enitre MBTA system was shut down, and the governor and mayors of Watertown, Cambridge, Newton, Brookline, and Boston had asked everyone to “shelter in place.”
Please note the action verb there. “Asked.” Not “ordered.” Asked. They requested our cooperation so they could do thier jobs, find Suspect #2, and not get anyone else hurt in the process. They asked, and we all said, okay. Yes, it was creepy to see the pictures, but look at it this way: we had two blizzards and a hurricane that shut down Boston much the same way (with less explosions) in the past six months. We survived. the local economy survived.
My particular job was under a “no one in or out” lockdown for most of the day, but that didn’t affect me, since I couldn’t get there anyway. For the people who were stuck there, the institute made sure there was food and information available, and did it’s best to keep everyone as calm as possible. Luckily for me, I got paid for the day, and I know that there are people who were not so lucky.
(For anyone who claims that “children were kept from their education for the day,” that’s a load of crap. It was school vacation week in Boston and a number of surrounding communities. No one was supposed to be in school that day anyway.)
And everyone pulled together to make this bearable. People lvietweeted the press conferences for anyone who couldn’t watch. Boston university delivered food to students stuck in their dorms. A Brookline officers brought milk to a family that was out. They asked, we waited (I admit that my cabin fever and stir crazy was pretty bad by the end, and we weren’t under the Shelter in place request).
Bostonians are a cranky lot. We don’t respond to orders too well. We do, however, respond to reasonable requests as long as we understand why it’s being made and how what we have been asked to do will be useful. As a friend, Siderea, said in her Livejournal:
As a therapist, I’m pretty attuned to how people say things. I couldn’t help but notice something in how authorities addressed the public in all those press conferences over last night and into this morning. The news was wrong: never did the police or the governor or anyone order communities to shelter in place. Always, always, when speaking into microphones, it was expressed as a request. “We request that people stay home. We are asking that businesses not open.”
Sentences we did not hear: “Citizens are ordered to remain in their homes.” “All people are to remain in their homes.” “Martial law has been declared.”
No, instead: “we are asking.”
And so, we did. Massively, as one, with unanimity I have never seen.
It’s like they know us: we haven’t got an obedient bone in our bodies, but we cooperate like champs. Order us and we won’t, ask us and we will.
Nor did they attempt to frighten us into compliance, even while making it clear the situation was dangerous. No “it is unsafe to go out”, no “for your own safety”, no “you may be shot”.
And this remarkable sentence, “If you see people waiting at bus stops or train stations, please tell them the bus or train isn’t coming, and to go home. The MBTA doesn’t want people congregating at stations.”
“The MBTA doesn’t want.” Okay. Wow. What an incredible formulation. Fair enough.
Not the exercise of power, but the enlistment of a people, the rousing of a whole society to a collective good — in the dark and chaos and uncertainy in the small hours before dawn.
And you know what? In the entire operation to get the suspects, not one civilian was injured. NOT ONE. Well, a boat was pretty fucked up, but not one injury. LAPD can’t say that.
We weren’t under martial law. There were no jackbooted thugs. Law enforcement made a request and we all cooperated and in doing so, we caught him.