I promised myself earlier this morning that I wasn't going to write about this, but by now you all know how well those kinds of promises tend to pan out. As the day wore on and more and more calls to boycott Rolling Stone appeared in my Facebook feed, I knew this was coming.
Before any of you start screaming at me, I ask that you read what I am about to write...since it appears that most of the people the most angry about the magazine clearly didn't actually read the article.
In case you haven't been online or near a television today, Rolling Stone magazine published a cover story today about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, also known as the Boston bombing suspect.
If you haven't read the article, I urge you to go read it (when you're done here of course) before you jump to conclusions about what it says just based on the image on the front cover.
Incidentally, I do not like that they chose this image, but I understand why they did. On first glance, it glamorizes the suspect, which is unacceptable particularly if the article never gets read. It sure gets your attention, though, which is what it was intended to do.
Reading the article instead of dismissing it would go a long way to explaining why they put his picture on the cover in the first place.
What often gets lost in the chatter about the bombing, about the suspect, about the police presence that resulted from the chase and hunt for him is hugely important: the motive. From the beginning of the investigation, from the moment he could speak, he has been consistent in what the reason was.
Instead of just dismissing whatever his reasons are and condemning him as a terrorist, maybe we should listen.
The bombings in Boston were a response the the US drone strikes around the world, supposedly aimed at members of al-Qaida, that have killed well over 4,000 people, many of which are innocent civilians, women and children. Even more people have been injured and maimed by these bombs.
What people here in the US don't seem to comprehend is that in the eyes of many others around the world, particularly the Muslim world, we are now viewed as terrorists.
And they are right.
We justify the drone strikes because they cost us less in resources and American lives, and are seemingly tolerant (or unaware) of the reality of what our military is actually doing.
His brother, Tamerlan, far more radicalized than Dzohkhar was, roped him into the plan. I do not say this to diminish his reponsibility, nor does the article that accompanied the photograph, but to explain why we should all be worried about it. Let me be clear here. I do not absolve him of fault in any way.
The reason that picture is on the cover is that he could be any kid in the US, any college student that participated in sports activities, got good grades and smoked pot when he was at parties.
Dzohkhar was an American teenager. He was handsome, as evidenced by the picture taken before the bombings. He was funny. He fit in. He had friends. He joined clubs. He played sports.
No one suspected him of ever being involved in something this atrocious.
None of his friends believed he could have been associated with such horrific violence.
There was almost nothing in his past to indicate he was a threat.
He wasn't on a single watch list, even though his older brother was.
This is why this picture is important, because Dzohkhar could be anyone, and you wouldn't even know until it was too late.
The article, had anyone actually read it, contained all kinds of background on his life, his friends, his interests, his academic past. He was not radicalized, in fact most people who knew him well have said that he rarely mentioned religion in any context.
What should come out of this article, what will come out of this article if you can get past the anger over a picture, is the very real threat that kids like him pose to our safety. It is how the threat is not far away and distant, it's not even radicalized. The danger is in how easily young people can be manipulated, swayed to the extremes, how quickly they can go from a kid at a party to a terrorist. It is how many other young men are out there with older brothers and cousins and friends like Tamerlan, who are justifiably angry that our nation has declared war on their people abroad.
We can't sit here in the confines of our boundaries and declare that we can haphazardly drop bombs on people all over the world and believe for even one second that we aren't making enemies every single time we do it.
Some of those enemies aren't over there.
Some of them are here.
They are angry.
And they have every right to be.
This is what is important. The motive.
It is why we must fundamentally change the way we think here. Why we absolutely must understand that our actions, even and especially the remote guided ones, are not without consequence. We are making enemies all over the world and providing them with reasons to hate us.
We are throwing gasoline on the fire, then wondering why it blows up in our faces.
Peace will never come in the form of a bomb.
Read the article before you condemn it, understand why that picture is on the cover, and realize why it's so important.
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