Celebration?

| April 22, 2013 | 4 Comments
A scene too soon?

A scene too soon?

I was on the Common late Friday night, and I found myself all too aware of the fact that I wasn’t cheering. The crowd I had followed from Marsh Plaza all the way down Comm Ave was chanting and occasionally singing, but I was silent. Once I clapped at a police van, but nothing beyond that. Perhaps it would have been different had I gone with friends, I don’t know. I went for a walk to be outside after a long day watching local news (as a journalism student, I feel compelled to credit the work done by local TV and the Globe, who did outstanding work where other outlets failed), and ended up following the crowd. But as it turned out, as relieved as I was, I wasn’t ready to celebrate.

The last time Boston saw gatherings like these, they marked the death of Osama Bin Laden. But Bin Laden was killed nearly ten years after 9/11. Survivors had long since left the hospitals, and the dead had long since received their funerals. We escaped the period of daily uncertainty and fear, and a decade had passed without any foreign attack on anywhere near that scale. Politicians had the time pass countless laws to try and ensure that. The hunt for Bin Laden, even, seemed to have been pushed to the background. Unless you were in the CIA or the White House, you didn’t wake up that day thinking, “hey, maybe we’ll get Bin Laden today!” The news came as a welcome surprise, and it served as long overdue closure.

The arrest of Dzokhar Tsarnaev, at least on Friday night, didn’t seem to be the end of the story. There are still motives we don’t know, people in the hospital, and others who haven’t yet adjusted to lost limbs. Martin Richards hasn’t had his funeral. When the crowd went down Comm Ave, we were a block away from a street that was blocked off as a crime scene.

Occasionally a passerby would ask what the crowd was all about, and these questions were mostly met by chants of “U-S-A.” For the record, the newly arrested Tsarnaev brother has lived in this country half his life, and, as of September 11th, 2012, is an American citizen. When we got to the Common, it seemed to me that for every chant of “B-P-D” or “We love Boston,” there was a rendition of the olé song. And then there was a moment of silence. I joined in on that.

When I took the T back to Kenmore, the train rolled right through an unlit Copley station.

Look: I don’t mean to criticize anyone’s celebrations. We all react differently to events like the ones we witnessed last week. Applauding the police officers and assorted first responders is a wonderful thing. They deserve all the praise we can give them, and then some. But I couldn’t bring myself to yell and shout on the Common. Having spent a day on lockdown, and a week with helicopters overhead, I fully understand the desire to get outside, to blow off some steam. Maybe we were celebrating a freedom from fear. Maybe the USA chants were meant to reflect that, this past week aside, we live in a country where we can hear sirens and not wonder how many people just lost their legs. But at least to me, the wounds feel too fresh for joy.

Am I just a buzzkill? Should I have sung along on Saturday, when Neil Diamond flew in to sing “Sweet Caroline” at Fenway? Or does anyone else think that this all might have been a bit much?

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Category: Boston, featured

Ryan Brister

About the Author ()

Ryan is studying journalism in the college of communication. He hails from Rochester, New York, and is slowly growing tired of explaining that it's really quite far from NYC. He watches far too much sports and likes to think of his life as a really long (and occasionally boring) book. His guilty pleasures include most of the music from the 1980s and every movie Sylvester Stallone ever starred in.

Comments (4)

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  1. Jeff Marks Jeff Marks says:

    I agree for sure. Many condemned last Friday’s chanting of “U-S-A” because it reflected a sort of aggressive nationalism or patriotism. On the other hand, I’ve never considered myself or the student population at BU as being patriotic. I couldn’t help but think back to the snowball fight on the esplanade, where after a student was arrested, everyone started to chant “U-S-A” in the most ironic of fashions.

    Just as the ‘murica meme has grown to parody excessive patriotism, I feel as if the chanting of “U-S-A,” even this past Friday, is inspired by some sort of tacit irony. And it’s that undertone of irony, rather than the nationalism, that I find most disturbing. I don’t know though. I could be wrong. It’s hard to evaluate the motivation of the individual versus the mob mentality.

    • Ryan Brister Ryan Brister says:

      I think I’d agree that the USA chant has garnered something of a tongue in cheek nature to it. At least on the walk down Comm Ave, the same people chanting USA were shouting “‘Merica,” which isn’t something that can be done with a straight face.

      But on the Common (and in Fenway), I think the USA chant has become something of all-purpose statement that can be used for killing Bin Laden and winning gold medals alike. It’s just what crowds of Americans do. Friday night there seemed to be a certain amount of “I don’t normally find myself in participatory crowds, wouldn’t it be cool if we could chant/sing X…?”

  2. shannonwj says:

    I agree with you, too, Ryan. I was relieved Friday when they caught him– it seemed like a huge weight had been lifted off of my chest. However, I didn’t feel like celebrating. There were still victims, and it wasn’t over for them or their families. It’s not over for Boston, a strong city that still needs time to grieve. I’m all for appreciating the police offers and their work, but I didn’t want to turn it into a “USA” sentiment. I think it’s difficult because everyone is reacting to the past week in different ways. Every person just has to do what feels right to him/her personally, I guess.

  3. Rachel says:

    I completely agree with most of your sentiments. I decided not to go to the Commons on Friday night, as it just did not feel right. My friend and I took a 5 minute stroll outside of our brownstone, but decided to celebrate by watching “Lilo and Stitch” rather than parading around Boston.

    Something to think about: I do not think we were celebrating freedom from fear. Boston is a new city, and its people have now experienced fear. For quite a few people, that fear is still fresh in their minds. We still need to be vigilant and we still need to watch over each other.

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