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How to honor the victims of a national tragedy

Can you hear yourself think? Can you manage more than bursts of confusion and anger? Can you feel your own humanity anymore? I'll admit it: I've had trouble this week, too. After an explosion like the one in Boston, it is indeed hard to hear one's own internal monologue, much less meditate on such horrific events. Polluting that sacred quiet of the mind is both the haunting boom of the bombs themselves and even worse, the noisy coda that we've become so accustomed to.

Sensory overload, of course, is the deafening effect of the Catastrophe Aftermath, one of the last unifying and consistent rituals in our atomized nation. Yes, regardless of whether the tragedy is a school shooting or a terrorist attack, the epilogues of these now-constant mass casualty events have become prepackaged productions that seem less like reality than scripted television dramas.

You know how it goes. Cable outlets blare breaking news chyrons. Twitter explodes with declarations that we are "all from (insert city name) today." Websites post videos of viscera and other disaster porn. Pundits wildly speculate about perpetrators. The president promises justice. Law enforcement press conferences review body counts. Municipal officials insist the community will "stand united." Funerals commence. A media icon says something outrageous. Other media carnival barkers then react to the bombast. Ultimately, the whole episode becomes another excuse to limit civil liberties and is forgotten by all but those personally affected.

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