The grainy black and white images of Dealey Plaza and My Lai felt distant and other worldly on our old Magnavox.
Today you can feel the cold horror of Columbine, lower Manhattan and Aurora through the warm pixels.
The video of the explosion in Boston looped again on screen.
Searching his soul for calluses, I ask my 10-year-old, "What do you think about Boston?" He looked at me like I was crazy to ask such a question.
"It's terrible." His heart is still soft.
In my best dad voice, I declared that bad guys never win. I paused and qualified it, adding, in a quieter voice, "In the long run."
In spite of the flood of horror streaming into our living room from beyond our valley, I believe what I told him. I wish the remote control ensured that all the horrors of the world would remain remote - but it can't.
In an inexplicable fit of paternal fretting, I don't want my son to think that injustice and evil are winning.
Listen to the Boston of more than a century ago. With the shame of slavery and the unthinkable terror of an imminent Civil War bearing down on their hearts, Theodore Parker told his fellow Unitarians, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
Those Boston abolitionists were not naive or engaging in wishful thinking. I believe it is a fact that the world is getting better, in spite of the electronic narrative.
Harvard professor Steve Pinker's scholarship reminds us that we are living in the least violent time in human history.
The numbers back him up. The law of the jungle has given way to the rule of law on this planet. It's packed with 7 billion people who, for the most part, reject violence.
Seven billion who would no more hesitate to save a fellow human in need than you would.
Our constructive response to uncommon horror redeems us time and time again. Bostonians ran into the smoke like the firefighters of Sept. 11th ran up into the towers and like the firefighters in Texas advanced into the fertilizer plant.
This is who we have been becoming since we left the trees.
Our modern age, with its world wars, serial killers and terrorists, has produced a tiny fraction of carnage compared to the slaughter our ancestors unleashed upon one another as soon as they could beat bronze into spears.
As hard as it is to believe, after 5,000 years of brutality, the vast majority of us resolve conflict without violence.
The tiny minority of mutations who stain our history are evolutionary throwbacks, angry humans forking away from the human family tree.
Driven by the mistaken primeval instinct that violence is a tool that will construct a better world, the ape reaches for a club or a sword or a banner or a bushmaster or a bomb.
Immune to exorcism by reason, the beast is oblivious to the observable fact that anger only offers one result as certain as death itself: reciprocation in kind.
And the wheel goes round and round.
Launch a war, and a thousand orphans will come back at you in a generation chanting the ancient song, "An eye for an eye."
In every generation they rise up as surely as the occasional two-headed snake is hatched. They are doomed to sink into the muck where Herod and Hitler lay.
By sheer numbers, the vast good among us will always overwhelm the bad and shove them back into the ooze.
In an ocean of bad news, perspective is as slippery as an eel.
One summer I was standing on my ladder talking to my roofer. He told me he had been a Catholic priest in his youth. He joked that he had become a roofer because he was sure he hadn't suffered enough.
While on the topic, I asked him, "Why do you think there is so much suffering in the world?"
Hammering away at the nails, he said he often wondered why there isn't more.
My son posed a different question to me.
"Remember 'St. Ralph'?"
Yes, I remember that movie. Set in the '50s, it was about a boy who runs in the Boston Marathon. Ralph believes that if he wins the race it will be a miracle, and his mom will come out of her coma.
He comes in second. She wakes.
"Was it a true story?"
We Googled it. No such runner existed. It's a fable so familiar that we all believe it without bothering to check the facts.
Because that's who we are and who we will always be. A people who believe that good wins every time.
And we are right.