Saturday, April 20, 2013

What Surprised Me About Boston (and what didn't...)

I was sitting in the cafeteria at my parent's assisted living facility last Monday when I became aware of the images of the bombing in Boston on the big screen TV.  It took me a moment to realize what had happened, but my first instincts were "Oh, no, not again."  And last night when I saw the images of the 19-year-old suspect, lying on the ground bleeding with dozens of armed police surrounding him, my only thoughts were how small and pathetic he appeared.  How could this  baby-faced, young man and his brother have been the masterminds behind such a horrible event?

That was the first surprise.  In all of the photos and video I've seen, they would appear quite ordinary and innocent.

Another surprise was how many internet vigilantes there are;  people were posting faces of those attending the Boston Marathon on Reddit, claiming them to be possible suspects.  Never mind how ignorant and stupid that is, but what about the poor fellow who ended up with media vans all over his lawn (I won't even say his name because I would be victimizing him again), because a local media organization gave his name as a suspect the police were investigating.  He was innocent, of course.  But people didn't wait to find that out.  I'm sure it would be no exaggeration to say he was frightened for his life.

Which was another surprise.  Or maybe not.  Should media organizations be allowed to release the names of ANYONE until they are officially a suspect and their names released by the police?  Honest to pete, the media is in such a RUSH to be first that they rarely take the time any more to thoroughly check their information.

I heard people calling in to a local radio station on the day it happened, complaining at how the station was constantly changing the info regarding how many had been killed or hurt.  The announcer was asking "should we not report it at all?" and callers were saying "get your facts straight first!"  Would it be a surprise for the media to learn that a lot of people out here would rather know the truth than deal with their constant speculation?

The next surprise is not a surprise really at all.  How many times can a video be looped in an hour on CNN?  A gazillion, as it turns out.  I turned it on at one point when I had heard that the video of the brothers at the marathon had been released, then turned it off, and hours later CNN was still looping the same video over and over and over and over again.  They would find different ways of repeating it, another reporter would take over and start analysing it, then it would run in the background as they threw to yet another reporter or anchor.  CNN is too blatantly gleeful when big tragedies occur, I suppose because it gives them a reason for being.  They know that people (like myself) will tune in to get the latest and so they keep reporting and reporting even when there is nothing to report.  Every show host hops the train or plane to the latest "ground zero" and does the whole show live from there.  Every show is renamed "Special Edition" as they continue to regurgitate the same information.

Lucky for them, the explosion at the fertilizer plant in Texas came only a couple of days later.  Another ratings booster.  Not so lucky for those who were killed or injured in that tragic event.

That they found this pathetic kid injured and hiding in someone's backyard was no surprise.  With the arsenal of assault weapons and sheer number of authorities looking for him, the guy was never going to get away for long.  I'm sure he had no idea what to do next.

But what did surprise me was the bizarre display of jubilation from locals, some of them holding out their beer cans and ripping off their shirts, when the kid was caught.  "We got him!" they tweeted.  And the gleeful grins and waves of acknowledgement from the authorities as they drove off into the night;  I'm sorry, but you were chasing one kid.  Granted, he and his brother apparently had a lot of ammunition at their disposal, but the show of force to me was, for lack of a better word, overkill.  Tanks and robots, automatic weapons, helicopters with heat-seeking equipment.  There was an "America Wins Again" attitude coming from everyone whooping and hollering in the streets.  But it wasn't a game, and nobody won.  The partying in the streets was in poor taste.

Once he recovers adequately, they're going to interrogate this kid without reading him his Miranda rights, evoking a rare public safety exception.  Even the American Civil Liberties Association is concerned about that.  They say the exception applies only when there is a continued threat to public safety and is "not an open-ended exception'' to the Miranda rule.  He is obviously in no shape to be a threat to anyone.  But in a sad way, this preferred method of interrogation is no surprise.  It's because of his ethnicity.

I know, I know, I KNOW that what Dzhokar Tsarnaev and his brother did was horrendous.  But I'd like to know if the authorities read James Holmes, the Colorado movie theatre shooter, his rights when he was captured?  And if they did, what's the difference?  Is it because he was American born, and therefore couldn't possibly be a "terrorist"?  For pete's sake, he killed four times as many people.

I know that there are probably a thousand little good things that came of this tragedy...as there often are during trying times.  People come together in ways they hadn't before, support for those who lost loved ones and for those who were injured has probably been overwhelming.  I know that there is more determination than ever from marathoners in other cities to show up and not allow fear to ruin their events.

But I wish I had been surprised in a more positive way.

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