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What it would be like to live in violence

I live in Cambridge, Boston's neighbor to the north, and my proximity to that city and the appalling act of terrorism during Monday's marathon have me thinking a lot about empathy this week, as I struggle with the limitations of my own. Even as I resist the urge towards tribalism ("We're all Bostonians today" vs. We're all humans all of the time), I won't deny the desperate But this is our home! We LIVE here! feeling that comes straight out of fear. It is a feeling borne of nearness to calamity, but that, of course, is felt by anyone living under threat of violence, be it infrequent or constant.

On the phone, talking about the bombings with worried loved ones living far away, I bristled at a question I have myself posed in the past and contemplate with some regularity: "God, can you imagine living in a place where this happened all of the time?" No. I haven't the first idea what that would be like, and I acknowledge the sheer dumb luck of that. As my dear and brilliant friend Preeta Samarasan says, “So often we say to each other, ‘I can’t imagine,’ when really what we mean is that we don’t want to, that imagining would be unbearable.” For a moment this week, some of us didn't have to imagine quite so much.

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