THIS IS HOW it happens now: Someone commits a crime, and everyone turns to his Facebook page, hoping to glimpse his inner thoughts. And there, on the public page of Kevin Edson — who allegedly put a rice cooker in a backpack, then placed it near the Marathon finish line — was that familiar photo of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, staring out from behind tousled hair, with an off-color joke for a caption.
Here was the inspiration for what Edson, who reportedly suffers from mental illness, described as an ill-advised piece of performance art. And it’s hard not to see Edson’s act, in part, as the byproduct of popular fascination with Tsarnaev — a reason some believe we should publicly ignore the accused bomber altogether, and concentrate instead on the city and survivors.
For the most part, here in Boston, we’ve struck the right balance. Tuesday’s memorial tribute, beautifully done, was focused on hope and resilience. Unless I missed something, I didn’t hear Tsarnaev’s name at all.
And yet it has come up, inevitably, in the past year and the past week. Last weekend, Adrianne Haslet-Davis, who lost a leg in the Marathon attacks, backed out of an appearance on “Meet the Press,” after producers wouldn’t promise to keep his name out of the broadcast.
It’s hard not to sympathize with her pain, or to want her to heal on her own terms. But as a culture, silence isn’t what we want — because we have to follow the news, but also because, if we lock Tsarnaev’s name and image in an airtight safe, we give him a lingering power he doesn’t deserve.
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