Truths emerge from tragedies

Five: Skin color is not an explanation.

Skin color is one way we categorize people, especially when we feel threatened. Putting people into color boxes based on prefab notions helps contain our fear.

See "terror management" above.

Skin color sometimes correlates to particular criminal behavior, but it's not a cause of crime. It may be worth mentioning if it helps identify a suspect or dispel unfounded theories about who committed a specific crime.

But CNN's John King did neither when he said one of the Boston suspects was "dark-skinned," a description that fuels prejudice and wouldn't have been relevant even if it were true, which it wasn't.

Six: Catastrophe always provides a lesson in geography and history.

Where is Chechnya? Where is Cambridge relative to Boston? Where is West, Texas? Where exactly is suburban Lisle?

A lot of people got a crash course last week.

Seven: One person's heartbreak is someone else's distant news.

If your home was flooded last week, you had less time to dwell on the fear and loss in Boston or Texas. That's all right. None of us can absorb everyone else's heartache all the time. We shouldn't feel we have to.

Eight: People are mysteries.

Smart, friendly, sweet. A heart of gold.

That's how friends and associates, seemingly unanimously, have described Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old taken into custody Friday night nearly a day after his older brother, Tamerlan, was killed in a shootout with police.

Because the brothers are suspected of planting bombs at the Boston Marathon, some people don't want to hear either of them humanized. But as one of Dzhokhar's friends said: Refusing to hear that he was a good guy is to refuse to hear the facts.

Nine: Everything that happened last week will look slightly different this week.

mschmich@tribune.com

CHICAGO

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