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John Michael Headshot

Let's Not Forget Ourselves

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As a Bostonian, I've been watching my city absorb, resolve, and heal from this tragedy with an overwhelming sense of pride. Through the broken hearts and anxious cabin fever, everyone has responded with charity, smiles, and grace, what might be concisely described as aplomb. If there is anything I can sense a resolve for, it is normalcy, not simply to a Boston without last Monday but to a country that remembers the words of Ben Franklin: Those who sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither and will lose both. Remember texting and emailing without paranoia? Remember getting through security with a Coke and meeting your family at the gate? Remember knowing for sure that your neighbor didn't support torture and feeling like we were on each other's side? How on earth did we let it get this bad? Of all the things we could do to honor those killed for living free, for everyone even remotely hurt in this endeavor, this time, let's not completely forget ourselves.

It's already happening, of course. Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was initially denied his Miranda Rights in the interest of "public safety," the political trump card invoked countless times over the past two administrations. Like many on both sides of the spectrum, I am rather vexed at the Justice Department's total lack of concern for the rights of the accused. Just as frustrating were four Republicans' statements following the arrest of Tsarnaev. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), an Air Force veteran, accomplished military attorney, and twenty-year legislator, warned the White house to deny Tsarnaev his Miranda Rights and declare him an enemy combatant, lest they "rush into a bad decision." To his credit Graham recognized the uselessness of information gathered before Miranda Rights are read, but his apparent glee at twisting the law to avoid granting Tsarnaev those rights is disconcerting to say the least. No matter how guilty a suspect may appear to be, citizen or alien, the Constitution demands the right to a fair trial. Senators Graham, McCain (R-AZ), Ayotte (R-NH), and King (R-NY) did not want these rights denied to an alien, but a naturalized citizen with just as much claim to the protections of the Constitution as any of us born without question on US soil. The Constitution should not apply only when it is convenient. It wouldn't be worth much if it did.

Is it not a little frightening that sometimes our legislators don't appear to know the law? Or worse, that they don't want us to know it? What would be better, to have reactionary neanderthals or calculating weasels in charge? Why has the last half century felt like a constant dilemma between both? Fortunately, many in the Democratic party including President Obama have to come out as vehemently opposed to declaring Tsarnaev an enemy combatant. The President's insistence that he be charged as a citizen through the civilian system is a step in the right direction, but now it is our turn to show that we are not a mob but a nation befitting God's apparent blessing.

We can all agree that what happened at the Marathon is unacceptable in the 21st Century, but I think we can just as easily agree that how we react to such events is just as important as the events themselves. Part of that means not letting our fear make us prisoners in our own homes, and especially not in the eyes of our own government. It also means keeping a level head when we disagree about how to proceed. That means no more preemptively denouncing each other's efforts. No more questioning each other's concerns for one another's safety. No more accusations about one side or the other "wanting" the terrorist to be a dark Muslim or a white Christian. It shouldn't matter, anyway, the Golden Rule applies to friends just as well as enemies, however you define either. We will prosecute Dhzokhar Tsarnaev as we would any other suspect not simply because he is an American but because judging our enemies by measures different from those by which we judge ourselves is hypocritical and evil. For now, Boston is returning to normal, eager to understand and to be at peace. Like a cartoon character taking a second bump on the head, it would appear that we are starting to remember ourselves.