“Cambridge, our fair city,” is mentioned every week on Car Talk. “Our fair city….” Today, Friday, “our fair city” is in lock-down.
Greater Boston, a city of cities, has at its core Boston, the feisty sometimes hard-nosed, patriotic, sometimes racist and often brawling cauldron of nations, peoples, and tribes. Boston is a place of great national aspirations and terrible national struggles.
For the past few days Boston has been our town. When the explosions happened on Marathon Day Boston became everywhere, and everywhere is home.
There was a wide embrace of Boston. Expressions of sympathy and concern came from all over, from people who have little idea how complex an idea Boston is, who don’t have any sense why there is Watertown, Cambridge, Newton, Allston, and so forth, an they are all Boston, and yet not, and who know little of the vast differences that only a few miles can bring, the distance say, between the Cambridge of MIT and the Seven-Eleven in Watertown.
But it doesn’t matter now. Now it is Boston and hearts go out to the whole blessed people who are living through this time of chaos and trauma. Right now Cambridge “our fair city” is not the city on the hill, but the city of anxiety. Right now Boston is not the commons of patriots, but of grief.
We know that the other Boston, the Boston of fierce loyalties and perseverance is also present, and the recovery of the full flower of Boston and its prides will happen.
And yet for now, now:
Home is where the heart is, and our hearts are in Boston these days.
Home has often been in other hurting cities: in Beirut, in Damascus, in Port-au-Prince, in Manila, and always in Jerusalem. When the cities hurt, the people, the citizens of every city, hurt, as if the sympathetic strings that bind us in city life were in tune, one with another.
Our hearts ache for Boston because we are there, and they are here, wherever we are. When one city is shaken, no citizen anywhere remains unmoved. When Boston is in lockdown, we know it far away in the cities where we live. We know it in our bones. It is not distant, it is close.
Boston becomes everywhere, and everywhere is home.