My thoughts on Boston

Boylston Street is now open. The surviving bombing suspect is being held and closely monitored in a medical facility at Fort Devens. Those how died have been honored gracefully with tributes and send-offs by thousands of people who loved them or traveled many miles just to be there to support their families. The suspects mother is crying foul, accusing the United States government of a conspiracy, but the Russians have on tape a “vague” conversation with her and her other son (who died in the ensuing shootout) with talk of “jihad.”

Boston is in the healing phase. Next year’s Boston Marathon will go on and people will not be afraid to run, in the same way that people are not afraid to go to downtown Manhattan. Our culture celebrates life. We don’t much believe in martyring ourselves, because someone told us that killing others indiscriminitely is the best possible solution to a problem. Americans are far stronger than a bomb in a pressure cooker left on the street by two bumbling terrorists who had no real plan, but were able to get off a minor spectacle that only proves their acts of terror leaves us strong and more united in the face of evil.

As a human being, I will never understand what it’s like to come from some of these countries, where hope is non-existant. Where danger lurks around every corner. Where people are murdered not just because of their political idealogy, but also because of their faith. Where thousands have been exterminated for no reason other than being the wrong color or being on the wrong side of a war.

I’m sure it has to be extremely difficult to know that your extended family was exterminated and that every day, whoever controls your homeland is choking off your ability to live in peace, raise a family and prosper. Once those things are impacted, there is a propensity to lash out. You listen to others tell you how horrible the West is and how Western powers are responsible for killing your extended family or the families of your childhood friends. And, they implore you to take action. While they talk, they hand you the bomb or gun and then you have to decide if what you’re about to do is acceptable. Is it right? Is it just?

For those who see no hope and no way out, they seem to take the road of violence. They turn around and point the finger at the West and say, if you didn’t kill my brother, father or mother, I wouldn’t have killed yours. But, with so many killing on each side, it become hard to determine the justifications for just about anything. It becomes fog in the cloud of war and there is no clear way out.

I know that every situation is relative to the time, place and space we each occupy at a given moment. As a young person growing up on Boston, I felt disenfranchised. I did’t feel like I was worthy of being hired to do just about anything. Most of my early jobs were odd jobs. I had a lot of jobs that were meaningless and I realized while I was doing them that they were just a stop-gap solution to solving the greater problem, which was: what am I going to do with the rest of my life?” Fortunately, I chose music as a career and over the next 23+ years, I built my career in both music and digital media. At one time, I could have turned to crime to make ends meet, but I had learned from my parents the value of hard word. That what you put in is what you got out. Sure, there were times it would be unfair, but to lash out and kill others over my perceived inability to assimilate in my surroundings, whichever they were, was really on me to figure it out. And, figure it out I did. Today, I’m married to a wonderful woman. I have a stable job in my chosen field. And, I am using the knowledge I’ve built up to sustain my career and grow as best I can.

Of course, I didn’t grow up in a war torn country. I can’t understand the dynamics those people face. I’ve talked to some – I remember one guy who used to clean the laundry mat in Brookline, near Coolidge Corner. He told me of fighting in the Lebanese militia. Listening to him tell me his story, I couldn’t imagine what it’s like to see your homeland torn to shreds by tanks and fighter jets dropping bombs and leveling city blocks. How, if you’ve seen these things, are you able to live amongst a civil society, where this type of extreme violence does not exist?

One of the things that I’ve been left with thinking about after the events of the last few weeks, is that there are people who feel so angry about whatever it is that troubles them, they will go to great lengths to be heard or be felt. Those lengths included murdering others in an attempt to raise the profile of an issue or get their way. What’s fascinating, is the fact that these people are choosing to be heard through violence in the belief that if they can get off a shot and kills some Americans, it will make us go way and not get involved in their lives. What it ends up doing, is bring more people into the situation, who then will spend all their days tracking down the people that committed this horrific act. Because we don’t sit still and because we’re super motivated, we will go to the end of the earth to find people who attack us. Osama Bin Laden can attest to this, if he were alive today. He’s not, because we did. It’s that simple.

I want to make it clear that this is not an anti-Muslim post. I have many Muslim friends and I have great respect for their religion. I know that my Muslim friends abhor the violence committed by one of the people in their extended community, in the same way I am angered by Christians who murder abortion clinicians and doctors over their perception of right to life. It bothers me greatly that non-Muslim’s will point the finger at all Muslims and say, “it’s you who is responsible for your brother’s or sister’s crime!,” when that is obviously not the case. What this does, is only raise tensions between our communities. That is not the best way to tackle these issues, because the growing animosity only fuels misplaced justifications of extremists who use the mistrust to fuel new attacks.

For me, the bombing and subsequent shutdown of Boston by the governor, Deval Patrick, reminds me of a time growing up when a felon escaped from prison, which I vaguely remember as being Walpole State Prison (I could be wrong). I’d come home from school that day only to be told by the police to hurry up and get to my apartment and lock all the doors and windows. They were looking for the convict and thought he might be holed up somewhere in our apartment complex. While many in Boston complain about the order to lockdown Boston, I remember thinking that it was better for me to be in the house and let the police find the escaped convict, then be outside and a possible target.

Growing up in Allston/Brighton (the carjacking happened near Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton) with connections in Cambridge (I worked at a record store a few yards from the Mobil station where the carjacking victim had escaped to) and Watertown (as a teen, I worked at the Arsenal Mall and my sister’s in-laws are from Watertown), I followed the police chase that night on scanner app for my iPhone. It was fascinating, yet scary to listen to, because I knew every street announced by officers over the stream. I was able to visualize exactly where they were as the chase and subsequent shootout transpired.

From the moment my wife told me that an MIT officer had been shot, I knew it was the bombing suspects. I can’t remember ever hearing of an MIT police officer being shot in the line of duty. Maybe it’s happened before and I just never knew about it, but this time and only a few days after the bombing, something told me that the bombing suspects had shot him and were about to embark on a night of terror. I immediately downloaded the scanner app and we tuned in, listening to the events unfold until well past 2 am. Of course, I was worried for my family, but I knew that they all wouldn’t be near the shootout location. My sister and her daughter do live about a mile or so away. I’m glad the suspects didn’t get that far.

It’s a testament to the bravery of the Boston Police, MBTA SWAT team, Cambridge Police and, of course, those brave Watertown Police officers who rarely ever see this kind of action, that they were able to capture the suspect. The bombings were horrific and the aftermath sad, given those who died and others who lost limbs or were severely physically injured or emotionally scarred. Having seen 9/11 happen myself, I can sympathize with my Boston sisters and brothers. What I know is that these things, despite their ugliness, will make everyone in Boston a bit more appreciative of their lives and their commitments to each other. It will strengthen resolve like it did for my friends after 9/11. We all will go on, not forgetting or living in fear, but facing realization that life is just not the same. We’ll be vigilant, but not afraid to walk, run, crawl or wheel ourselves to the finish line. For the Boston Maraton is a Boston institution that cannot be defeated by two crazed individuals who turned to violence over discourse and evil over good. One has lost his life for it, as he should. The other may lose his, as he should as well.  While I don’t believe in the death penalty, I do reserve the right to believe for special cases – this is one of them.

 

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