I lived in Boston for 2 years (2009-2011), and naturally I followed the recent tumults in the city with strong emotional involvement. I knew people who were running in the marathon where two bombs exploded. And for 2 years I went in and out of the building in front of which the MIT police officer was killed – that was my work location, and it’s still where some good friends go to work everyday.
With one of the suspects now dead, and the other captured, the lives of people (some of them close friends) should now start returning to normal. A time for analysis is now coming, and thoughtful conversion and discussion will follow. One of the questions that is on many minds, including my own, is “why?”. What motivated these young boys to blow up innocent people? Yet this question cannot but bring unsatisfactory answers. No matter the reason, there is no justification. Were they mentally ill? Then it was wrong to do it. Were they motivated by political grievances? Then it was wrong to do it. Were they motivated by a religious agenda? Then it was still wrong to do it. Where they motivated by a desire for recognition and martyrdom? Then it was still wrong. Etc.
The primary important question is: how to build a safe and nurturing society? Consider for example the recent tragedies in the US that ended the lives of many more people: the Newtown elementary school massacre and the Aurora cinema massacre (which claimed the lives of more than 30 americans). The reasons that these killers might claim to have are of marginal importance to the point of how to construct a safer society. Their act is beyond justification. Answering “why” leaves us with very little. A more appropriate place to start would be to ask “how could this have been avoided?”
Back to Boston. If framed in the larger context, then “why?” can be an important question. Namely, not “why did they do it?” but instead “why did it happen on the whole? How can we respond? What can we do to improve safety?” Answering these questions is hard, but the answers (or proto-answers) that we might get, will be meaningful and important.
Be well Boston. Love to my friends.