A Conspicuous Cover Story

Rolling Stone is at it again.

Known for their outrageous antics anyways, the magazine has created a firestorm by putting the alleged Boston Bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, on their front cover. They posted on their Facebook page this statement about the cover/article: “Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families. The cover story we are publishing this week falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone’s long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day. The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens.”

I feel like Rolling Stone’s putting one of the alleged bombers of the Boston Marathon on it’s cover is again another sign that our society is becoming more and more concerned less with the victims in a tragedy and more with the person who perpetrated it. The question of “why?” starts a wholesale introduction into the perpetrator’s life-history and subsequent mental stability. The focus is initially on understanding, remembering, eulogizing, etc. the victims, but it gradually shifts to getting inside the story and mind of the actor. Under the guise of trying to understand “how a tragedy like this happens,” the public focuses on their attention on how a person growing up in the United States can become a person of unspeakable violence and malevolence.

What happens is that often the person doing the violence is turned into the victim. It was not their fault, it was the fault of society, his/her parents, his upbringing, the bullies, etc. (Now I do not want to trivialize an oppressive society, abusive parents, nor the psychological damage that bullying can bring upon persons, but I will say that at a fundamental level there has to be a point where we say, “Violence is not okay, regardless of how crappy life is.”) People become fascinated with the past of the aggressor because sometimes it seems incredibly mundane and not particularly arduous. The though is, “that could have been me!” pops into the mind and *poof* we understand why, at least in a rough sense, someone did the act of violence.

There was an article in Relevant Magazine that detailed how this phenomenon is going on in Hollywood, with movies like Despicable Me where the villain is the protagonist, but how this bleeds into real life with tragedies such as Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, and Sandy Hook.

It seems as though we need to throw Boston on that list with this article. The author says, “The murder’s story has taken precedence over those killed. For it is always our leaning to favor the ‘underdog.’ Maybe some of those killed were rich. Maybe some came from good families. If we are astute, we will perceive that the antagonist wants to punish his victims for being good.”

Regardless of the background of the antagonists, at the core of the violent act was the need to punish the victims, whether they knew them or not. Why else would they feel the need to perpetrate those acts AGAINST someone, instead of internalizing or taking their rage out on themselves (which is also a problem). We though need to not turn these people into victims, but recognize that their actions are exactly that THEIR actions. Though I do want to say that forgiveness is necessary as well. We need to able to recognize the deplorable acts of violence and denounce them, but then turn towards the antagonist and offer a loving response (how do we respond to the violent acts persons do on behalf of their country is another issue!). We need to be able to have a response that does not take the blame away from the perpetrator, but that does offer reconciliation.

My prayer is that all of the potential Tsarnaevs receive reconciliation, healing, and the counseling they need and deserve so that they do not turn to violence to resolve their issues. Now our job is to try and make this prayer into a reality.


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