The day that exploding bombs rocked the Boston Marathon
finish line, any faith I lost in humanity was immediately restored by what I saw and learned about the vast, prompt outpouring of support.
Not only could you see on CNN bystanders bolting into the chaos to help the victims, but directories of the runners' whereabouts and open houses in Boston were linked
all over the social media. Also, I received countless calls from readers of my paper who wondered if the runners we featured in a prior story were okay. That outpouring of concern was one of
the most refreshing things I have experienced in a long time.
After the FBI
identified the bombing suspects, a manhunt ensued to capture the brothers,
26-year-old Tamerlan and 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarneav, and bring them to justice. The first night
of the manhunt, Boston
law enforcement engaged in a deadly shoot-out with these two men while the
entire world became vengeful voyeurs by tuning into the coverage to watch the
story unfold. The events resulted in the deaths of the older brother, Tamerlan,
and an MIT campus cop, Sean Collier. In addition, many false stories were fabricated by media outlets like CNN and the New York Post as they tried to get a scoop on breaking events.
When I heard that the
older brother, Tamerlan, had been killed, I didn't care, because I didn't know him. Also, he had made his own choice to brutally attack innocent people trying to have a
good time. However, I was very disturbed by the behavior of a few of my
Facebook friends who lived a long way away in Georgia. Even though they had no connection to the tragedy, they decided to plaster the leaked morgue photo of Tamerlan's
blood-soaked, mutilated corpse on their page, along with some profane slang
about what happens to anyone who messes with America. I thought about commenting on how unnecessary it was to post such hate-laced, obnoxious
propaganda, and also mentioning that I could have gone my entire life without seeing that photo.
But I realized that simply blocking these posts would be the better option.
After being disgusted
by the behavior of my former Facebook friends, I became curious about the brothers who had turned
domestic terrorists, and decided to find out more about them. I
discovered that they were active in social media and found Dzkhokhar's Twitter
handle, because Buzzfeed had already started picking apart his tweets to
diagnose his actions the day he hid bleeding out in the boat. On his site, I
found many individuals of like mind to myself, who wanted to see what a
killer's Twitter handle looked like. However, on looking further into the seemingly ordinary page
of this 19-year-old, I also saw all the death threats he had received. These were from individuals he
had never met, including, ironically, one of my former Facebook friends, who had simply got caught up in the thrill of his story. It was disgusting.
It's hard to feel
sorry for the Tsarneav brothers, because they ruined the lives of so many
innocent people, not to mention completely ending four. But the backlash and
blood lust via social media, by people all the way down to Georgia who had no attachment either to the victims or the suspects, caused me to look at this crime in another way. It made me see that solutions to the Boston Marathon bombing, or to any mass tragedies caused by people with a radicalized chip on their shoulder, don't lie in black-and-white news accounts or postings in the social media. Real solutions start with the individual and
something as simple as a change in attitude.
Many lives have been
forever altered by the Boston bombings, and long after all the journalists
pack up and leave Boston
for good, the world will continue to move on inexorably without the Tsarneav
brothers. But it's important to realize that the brothers were made famous by those who
tuned in to the coverage and needed to be in the know. For the sake of the
victims affected that week, we have to stop being one of those people. We need to quit giving our political, stigmatizing opinions about the ordeal and understand
that similar attacks could happen anywhere.
What I like about
people who don't watch the news all day is that they don't ever want to see a
picture of anyone at their absolute worst--like those circulating in the social and mass media after the Boston bombings that showed the fallen and captured brothers or the
victims hurt in the race. Any act of terrorism, like a
mass shooting or bombing, has a psychological impact, and it's easy to feel victimized
when others sit anonymously behind a computer screen and post a gory
morgue photo or death threat, or debate and
insult someone about an issue on Facebook or a chat thread. Instead of picking an
issue apart with our opinions, we need to start expecting nothing but the best
from one another. We need to stop personalizing what isn't explainable, and start being respectful and not believe in obnoxious conspiracy theories.
To me, all the
deplorable social media posts are proof that getting caught
up in anything and becoming radicalized can happen to anyone. The brink is
horrifying, but it's no longer pertinent to expose societal fractures by
pushing a polarizing political agenda and thinking it will result in positive
change. Instead, people must be willing to selflessly immerse themselves in the
muck, pull the suffering back from peril before they jump off
the brink, and strive to prevent the horrors of terrorism by continuing to battle for the good in
humanity. We must finally begin to learn from our tragedies instead of feeling victimized.
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Is an aspiring writer and advocate on mental illness awareness.