Sometimes I think human history is the outcome of a great war between civilization and barbarism.
When terrorists set bombs in a public place to kill and maim innocent people, that is barbarism. When neighbors and citizens arise to comfort and compensate the victims of such atrocity, that is one of the many functions of what we call civilization.
History has always been us civilized folks against the barbarians who assault the the gates of law and decency.
In the last decade of our nation's collective experience, many of us have borne the burden of tragedies in which innocents suffered terrible pain, suffering, and death. In the wake of these terrible events, there never fails to be a multitude of Americans who answer the immediate and subsequent challenges presented in sorting out and cleaning up bloody messes, and then ministering care and comfort to victims and their families. The most obvious heroes are the first responders, the firemen, EMTs, physicians, nurses, policemen, neighbors, compassionate passersby, good samaritans. But there are many others all along the way in the aftermath.
For instance, long after the fact, after the dust settles, someone has to sort out the financial damages and compensations; there has to be a person or persons whose job is to make the hard decisions in allocating limited money for compensation to victims and others who have suffered undeserved losses and injuries.
Fortunately for us here in the USA, there is a man whose God-given gift is to administrate those decisions, and their accompanying financial compensations, in a very public and transparent way. He is a man who is known for fairness, impartiality, and sound judgement.
Ken Feinberg is his name. He has been appointed, in days recently past, to help others sort out and distribute the sticky, inadequate financial damages that collect in the wake of such events as: 9/11, the Virginia Tech shootings, the Colorado movie shootings, BP oilspill, and many others.
And now the Boston Marathon bombing damage compensation fund.
In an interview today with Robin Young of Boston's WBUR Here and Now, Mr. Fineberg explained that there is "never enough money" in a situation such as this to justly compensate all those people who have suffered death, maiming, loss of limbs, paralysis, pain, suffering and loss of just about every asset that humans are heir to, including suffering to which no monetary value can be assigned.
But somebody has to do it. Somebody has to make the difficult calls, and then have the results of the distribution acknowledged generally as fair and sufficient. In the USA today, that somebody is Ken Feinberg and his crew.
I admire him. It is a very difficult job, and he has handled it well, with honesty and integrity that is widely, consistently acknowledged, case after case, disaster after disaster.
What a hell of a job.
I recommend you listen to his answers in response to Robin Young's questions: http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2013/04/29/one-fund-feinberg
At the end of the interview, Ken intimated that the job is stressful. He said he has to take little breaks after meeting with victims and their families, in order to deal with the pain and suffering that he sees in their faces and hears in their complaints.
Then Robin mentioned Mozart; she had heard that he enjoys listening to music at the end of such a stressful day. Mr. Feinberg confirmed it. After all the stress that his day's enquiries uncover, at the end of the day he finds release from the fierce collateral damages of barbarism, by fleeing to what he calls the "height of civilization": listening to Mozart, Wagner, Verdi, Beethoven.
I can relate, especially as he mentioned Beethoven.
It is true: a Beethoven symphony, performed by a professional orchestra, expresses the height of civilization.
In terms of music, that is.
But the deeper and loftier height of civilization is this:
what good people do to comfort, heal and care for their fellowmen/women, in the tragic aftermath whenever evil has been inflicted by barbarians at the gate.