Boston Strong

8 Apr
Boston Marathon bombing 2013

Boston Marathon bombing 2013


The tragic events at the 2013 Boston Marathon— the injury, loss of life and the injection of anxiety and fear into civic life (this was Boston’s 9/11) has been a preoccupation of the public conversation ever since. Especially as the US Justice (a possible misnomer)Department fought the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense’s move for a change of venue. Even with my limited and disinterested contact with Boston media, I have noted the trial of the so-called Boston Bomber has occupied headlines and was regularly the lead story on local news programs.

While the event and what followed was certainly harrowing and unsettling, to my sensibility so was some of the public response. The proliferation of bumper sticker slogans and t-shirts somehow trivialized this day of infamy. Now this may be an oblique connection but I somehow found something wrong with the ‘Boston Strong’ incantation and an abysmally small turn out for the Boston mayoral election.

Boston’s Mr Fussy Alex Beam took umbrage with the legal proceedings drawing up memories of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s 1930’s show trials. He asks the key question:

I ask: In what sense is the ongoing prosecution of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev not a show trial? What is our government trying to show, and to whom?

Of course no one has been tortured, but the outcome has long been foreordained. Eric Holder’s Department of Justice could have spared us this costly theater piece by offering an agreement to have Tsarnaev plead guilty for the Boston Marathon terror bombing. Instead, Justice insisted on the death penalty, precipitating this seemingly endless, two-stage trial.

The Brothers by Masha Gessen

The Brothers by Masha Gessen

Now comes Masha Gessen’s The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy (Riverhead) which is interesting because it is in equal parts a clear window into Chechnyan history (See Anthony Marra’s fine novel set in Chechnya A Constellation of Vital Phenomena)— a country that can barely be located by Americans. And a rumination on cultural dislocation and terrorism. Not to mention that Gessen traveled to Chechnya, Dagestan, and Kyrgyzstan, providing an ambitious and important context for what turns out to be a much larger story than that terrible day, April 15, 2013.

And for those interested in the operation and degree of efficiency and effectiveness of various police and security operations, there is the recently released “After Action Report for the Response to the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings . One news source revealed:

But the report also cited the potential for even more injuries during the chaos starting three days after the bombing, when Dzhokhar and his older brother, Tamerlan—who died during a firefight in Watertown, Mass.,—allegedly tried to flee the area after they were depicted in surveillance pictures near the marathon finish line.

Officers who arrived on scene while the Watertown shootout was already under way “fired weapons toward the vicinity of the suspects without necessarily having a target lined up and identified, or having appropriately aimed their weapons,” the report said.
…also highlighted the logistical challenges when police flooded into Watertown, some from nearby states and New York, and many who “self-deployed” to try to help. This caused safety concerns when they headed out into the field on their own, “at times placing themselves, and the officers with the authority to respond, at risk,” the report said.

Currently the jury for the Tsarnaev trial is deliberating…and found  him guilty on all 30 counts

And if you haven’t exhausted your interest in this woeful tale, reportedly Mark Wahlberg is making a  movie—shoot me if he calls it Boston Strong.

Update —Masha Gessen offers a post verdict take on the trial and the case:

Unlike some other people who have touched this case, the lawyers in federal court in Boston have done their jobs remarkably well. The prosecution laid out a meticulously timed and skillfully scripted case, leaving the jury with a clear picture of unspeakable carnage and cruelty. The defense wisely refrained from challenging the testimony of any victims or witnesses. It cross-examined only F.B.I. agents and experts — and, tellingly, some of them sounded unprepared and underinformed when questioned. The sole job of the defense now is to make sure Dzhokhar Tsarnaev lives. The prosecution’s task is to persuade the jury to sentence him to death. That means that, riveting as the next phase of the Boston bombing trial may be, these proceedings cannot and will not move us closer to the truth.

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