Some of the stories we tell about ourselves in the aftermath of terror are true. Many people react reflexively with bravery and compassion, rushing toward an attack to aid its victims. Many open their homes to strangers.
Some of the stories we tell are naive: "This is a progressive town, the People's Republic," a Cambridge high school teacher remarked. "How could this be in our midst?" he wondered, as if diversity were a cure for all evil.
Some of the stories we tell are bravado. When people praise Boston's proverbial toughness, I shrug. Boston is home to over 600,000 individuals; some are resilient and others are not. Bravado has its virtues though, in times of grief and terror. It's self-medicating. Maybe acting tough can help you feel tough. Maybe you can approximate the person you wish yourself to be.
But not all our bravado is helpful or harmless. Some of the stories we tell about the nation are delusions that cloak weaknesses and wrongs, which fester unacknowledged. David Ortiz brags that "nobody is going to dictate our freedom," and I assume he hasn't heard of the Patriot Act or warrantless wiretaps, much less the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. Dennis Lehane can be excused for declaring that "they messed with the wrong city," but don't take seriously his confidence that not much will change: "Trust me," he adds implausibly, "we won't be giving up any civil liberties to keep ourselves safe because of this."