It's gone too far.
It's just gone too far.
For the last few days, ever since they caught Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the second Boston bomber, there's been a phenomenon sweeping the nation. Not everyone to be sure, but enough.
Look on the HuffPost Religion section, and you will see articles by reverends and professors extolling the virtues of forgiveness, even writing letters to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, telling him that they don't blame him, he's just a kid.
Go on Reddit and you'll see that the most top-voted comments surrounding him are thoughts about how normal he was, and how he must have been manipulated by his brother, and wow, you have to feel bad for him. The comments under these extol those people for having "empathy." The comments under those attack those who don't have empathy. And it goes in a circle (I believe they have a term for that on Reddit).
And then it reached a head two nights ago, when Amanda Palmer, some singer, posted a poem for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. She tried to see the situation from his perspective, and wrote such special lines as:
You don't know why you let that guy go without shooting him dead and stuffing him in some bushes between cambridge and watertown.
You don't know where your friends went.
You don't know how to dance but you give it a shot anyway.
Poor Amanda has started a firestorm on the web, but the truth is she's only getting the heat because her poem was so over the top. This sympathizing with attackers, with murderers, with terrorists, has been sweeping our country for years now.
It seems that after every massacre, every school shooting, every terror attack, a segment of our country begs, cries, for a way to excuse the killers, and the Boston massacre has brought that segment out in spades.
It's time that we drew a line. It's time that we said enough.
Yes, it's good to look at things with nuance, yes it's good to understand that people kill for different reasons, yes, it's good to acknowledge that most people aren't evil.
But this Dzhokhar Tsarnaev killed an 8-year-old. He blew off the legs of people who were just trying to enjoy a beautiful day and encourage those around them. If he had his way, he would have killed and maimed many, many more.
Maybe empathizing with killers is our way of distancing ourselves from an attack, helping us avoid realizing the magnitude of its impact. Maybe it's a reaction to the bravado America had after 9/11. Maybe there are other reasons.
The reasons don't matter.
What matters is that we snap out of it.
What matters is that we realize that when we excuse the acts of killers, we in effect, justify those killings. Whether we mean to or not.
Because there is no excuse for killing. Not mental illness, not being manipulated, not having trouble fitting in.
Because the act is inherently evil, end of story. And the more we try to justify it, the more we encourage its existence.
To those that think that it's possible to separate the person from the act: you can't. When someone does something, it becomes a part of that person. It shapes that person. That person will forever be connected to that act.
For those that think that we should forgive: that's not your place. You know who gets to decide if they forgive him? The people who lost their legs. The parents of 8-year-old Martin Richard. That's who. Not you. You are a spectator. Step away.
It's time we came together as a nation and acknowledged that murder of innocent people is wrong. Terror is wrong. Doing these things makes you a bad person, regardless of circumstance.
And most of all: Evil exists. There is evil in the world, and we can't hide from it by explaining it away. The more that we do try to justify it, the more we allow it to spread.
Evil is a cancer that is sparked by acts like the Boston bombing marathon. But the cancer only spreads if we don't fight it, if we don't see it for what it is.
And if we allow that cancer to spread, we are like a doctor who has the cure but refuses to administer it because he doesn't want to admit that there is such a thing as cancer.
Any doctor who would do such a thing would be evil, whatever his motives.
And if we also refuse to acknowledge the cancer, if we also close our eyes to its existence... well... that makes us evil too.
Elad Nehorai is a writer living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Five years ago, he became a religious Jew in the Chabad Hasidic community and has since written about his experience extensively, most recently in his blog Pop Chassid. You can find him on Twitter as @PopChassid and Facebook.