Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Remembering Boston, believing a better world is possible

It's been just over a week since the horrific attack on the Boston Marathon and I, like many others, am still reeling. I can't begin to imagine what it must have been like - for the people who were injured or killed in the attack, and for the thousands of runners and supporters who participated in the event.  However, since others have already written far more eloquently and with more insight than I ever could, the only other thing I'll say about it is this:  If the bombers thought their attack would discourage runners and spectators from participating in future events, they were mistaken. Running is all about the triumph of the human spirit. It's about hope, courage, perseverance and community. The memorial runs that have taken place around the world since last Monday (including here in Halifax last night) underline that fact.

There have been lots of other distressing news stories over the past few weeks, including this one about a young woman who was sexually assaulted at a party, then bullied by schoolmates for more than a year before she finally took her own life. There are many aspects of the story that are disturbing but the key issue for me is why did those boys think it was okay to do what they did?  Who taught them to behave like predators rather than gentle-men? Why - in 2013 - do so many people still think that women who behave in certain ways "deserve" what they get?

Of course, the fact is we live in a rape culture and it seems to be getting worse instead of better - in part because of social media. It's distressing to see how "normal" it still is for people in our society - men and women alike - to express violent, sexist attitudes.

For example, some time ago a colleague recommended a local photographer to take a studio portrait of Husband and me. The photographer in question has a day job but does freelance work on the side. I thought I'd check out his work before booking an appointment so visited his website. What I found there quickly changed my mind about hiring him. It seems this particular photographer (a middle-aged guy) spends a good deal of his leisure time photographing naked young women to create "fine art nudes" and feels no compunction about posting links to those images beside more mundane images of kids and sports. (I hasten to add that his idea of "fine art" seems to have been heavily influenced by reading too many Playboy and Hustler magazines in his youth. Seriously. You can almost hear him panting.) My point is this:  His attitudes are mainstream - so mainstream that it obviously hasn't occurred to him that some people might find his "hobby" downright creepy.

In any case, given all the above, it was with a heavy heart that I began my long run last weekend, anxious about running 32 kms and about what Husband would find when he and his friends headed into the woods to begin dismantling the mountain bike obstacle course that had been constructed on our property without consent.

One of the structures that had to be dismantled - much bigger than it looks!

A hundred meters down the road, I met a young man loading building materials into the back of a pickup truck near the bottom of the trail that leads to our property. He introduced himself as K, the young man who had coordinated the construction of the course, and explained that he'd received erroneous information about the ownership of the land, felt terrible about trespassing, and planned to do whatever he could to put things right.

And it turned out he was as good as his word.  K and another young man had already put in a full day on Friday dismantling some of the structures, and the two contributed another full day to help Husband and friends finish the job. By suppertime, the bulk of the work was done and K returned the next morning to haul away several large piles of debris.

As I told K, taking responsibility for their mistake and working to put things right said a lot (all good!) about him and his friend. They didn't try to evade responsibility or blame anyone else for their mistake, and they didn't find excuses to avoid the work. Instead, they stepped up and did far more than we expected and set a terrific example for their fellow bikers - for which we are very grateful.

Also in the category of "good for the battered soul", I must mention the dear friends who gave so much of their time and expertise last week to help Husband with the ongoing kitchen renovation and removal of the obstacle course. Their generosity, hard work and good company were all greatly appreciated as well.

Bottom line: Though there are lots of horrible things happening in the world, there are lots of good people trying to do good things too - people who take responsibility and do what they can to help. I never want to forget they exist or stop believing a better world is possible.

For the running geeks in the crowd, here are the stats for last week.

Total distance: 60 kms
Total # runs: 4
Longest run: 32 kms
Tempo runs: 2 (1 x 8 kms, 1 x 10kms)
Hill training: 1 x 10 hills

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