I wasn’t here last year when the marathon bombings occurred, so I can’t speak firsthand to the widespread terror and panic, and then grief and anger felt throughout the city. I did, however, run in a half marathon here around a month later, and I saw how deeply affected people were, how raw those wounds still were. I understand why some people would seek what seems like a just punishment for such a horrible crime – the death penalty. People are angry, and hurt, and they want revenge. An eye for an eye.
However, I believe that killing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is not the answer. This is not about the legality or morality of the death penalty. While the idea of killing someone as punishment makes me shudder, I understand that there have been cases where the atrocity of the crimes seems to demand such a punishment and there is no doubt that the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev deserves to be harshly punished for his crimes. In this case, however, the death penalty is not an appropriate punishment.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother sought to create chaos and destruction in the most attention grabbing way. They wanted to create fear, and they wanted to make sure that everyone’s focus was on them and the acts of violence they committed. The natural reaction of the public and the whirlwind of media that followed played into exactly what they wanted.
For hours on end, millions of Americans sat glued to their televisions, computers and smartphones watching the constant coverage of the attacks, the manhunt and the profile of the two men believed to have committed the acts. They wanted attention and in our quest to understand such a devastating event, we gave it to them. We are not to blame for that, because under the circumstances that ensued after the bombings, there was good reason for people to be well informed and vigilant.
After the manhunt was over and the threat of another attack was diminished, we should have stopped talking about the men who committed the bombings. Every time we said their names instead of those of the victims, every time we showed their pictures on TV, every time we made the bombings about them we gave them what they wanted.
The same thing happened after the mass shootings in Sandy Hook, Connecticut and Aurora, Colorado, and while I firmly believe in the freedom of the press, I wish they would stop focusing on, and making twisted celebrities out of, the people responsible for such atrocities.
When Rolling Stone put Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on their cover, they gave him the status of a celebrity and if we seek the death penalty, this case will continue to play out in the media for many more months, granting him even more coverage instead of allowing us to heal and move on.
Debates will ensue over the legality of the death penalty and people who passionately disagree with the death penalty will be put in the position of defending him. Appeals will be made and each time many more articles will be published, focusing on the criminal instead of the victims. I think we should lock him up in a prison cell and let him stay there for the rest of his existence. And then I think we should do our best to forget about him and move forward as a stronger, closer community.