You Deserve Better, Boston: A Love Letter to Strong People, A Hate Letter to the Media, A Solidarity Note to those Being Othered

Evelyn Crunden ‘13
Features Editor

On Monday, bombs went off in Boston, three people were killed, over 150 were injured, and many of us scrambled for phones, Twitter accounts, Facebook statuses and anything we could grab to obtain information and establish the safety of loved ones. By Saturday we had all been subjected to a manhunt for a 19-year-old boy with a distinctly “un-American” name and heard blow-by-blow accounts of the entire chase, as the strong and sturdy city of Boston sat under lockdown. We can now rest with the knowledge that those who caused those explosions at the end of the finish line are either gone or in police custody. Still, my heart feels heavy.

There are so many components to the incidents of last week that are hard to wrap my head around that I still feel somewhat bewildered about the entire catastrophe. The nearness of Boston and the reality of the number of friends I have there, the time I have spent there myself and of the friends I know who spent a panicked week trying to go home or desperately calling their families have all felt like a crushing weight. But the added components have been perhaps the hardest to face. The horrifying media coverage, the attention paid to the death of a small eight-year-old boy and the circus surrounding his grieving family has been an absolutely sick display of voyeurism and American fascination with the sort of news stories that keep Nancy Grace employed. More horrifying, even, was the lack of acknowledgement of the deaths of Krystle Campbell, by all accounts a warm and loving woman with close ties to her family, and Lü Lingzi, a Chinese international student whose family must now shoulder not only her death but the terrible cost of her education and expected future support. The silence surrounding Lingzi’s death has been especially deafening; the world would rather probe and inspect the death of a white, stereotypically American boy than that of a woman pursuing a different sort of American dream, one that comes at a heavy price and can be eternally elusive. While the death of Richard Martin is certainly horrifying and tragic, the death of Lingzi brings me to my most recent point of concern, one that has exploded in between early Friday morning and now.

We now know that two Chechen immigrants who arrived in this country quite a while ago likely caused the bombings. We also know they were practicing Muslims. These two facts come after a week where the American public was told to be on the lookout for a “dark” or “black” man with a “foreign accent”, a week when a missing Indian man was briefly suspected and unfairly attacked on the Internet, and when multiple Americans going about their daily lives arrived home to graffiti on their doors telling them to “go home” or comments in malls and grocery stores insinuating ideology based on religion and/or skin color.

The two Chechen men are still an anomaly. One is dead and one is in custody. They were brothers. The older one seems to have had a bit of a record with the law and a few troubling signs. The younger by all accounts seems to have been a bright and well-liked boy, faithful to his religion, interested in sports and a bit of a class clown. They will now probably both go down in history as terrorists, murderers, extremists and perpetuators of violence. That’s not to say that those descriptors aren’t deserved. It’s just that the lack of introspection surrounding the entire manhunt has been horrifying. To be Muslim in this country is hard. To be an immigrant in this country is hard. To be dark-skinned in this country is hard. Instead of seeing the humanity and isolation inherent in the elder brother’s Internet comment (that he had “no American friends,” to paraphrase), the media has instead called the admission “sinister.” As if somehow lacking friends in a new country ought to be a sign of individual responsibility, not of collective fault.

Ultimately what happened in Boston is now done. Families have been ripped apart, three beautiful lives are gone, and many more have been permanently altered. As a nation, we should collectively honor the extraordinary work of the Boston Police Department, as well as the energy and love that has come out of one of the strongest and most inspiring cities in this country. We need to remember the lives of all three of the deceased, regardless of age or race. And we need to be there for those we know who have been affected. Still, now is not the time for othering, for racism, for Islamophobia, for fear, for hate. In Afghanistan and in Syria, two places where bombs rip worlds apart everyday, entire groups assembled to send signs of solidarity to Boston. We need to remember those faces, just as we need to take the time to shelter, not reject, those who have come to this country in the hopes of a better life. Americans come in all shapes and sizes, colors and religions, and are indicative of a beautiful and diverse country. Muslim Americans, South Asian Americans, Middle Eastern Americans and all Americans who have felt the eyes of the world since a tragic day in September over a decade ago, are now even more at risk. Just as we came together so passionately in the hours following Monday’s tragedy, so too must we now set aside our differences and remember our collective responsibility to ourselves and to each other. And what better place for it to start than in Boston, one of the most “American” cities we have.

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