Things of the Week: Republican conventions & the Boston bombing

Aaron Tang / Flickr

Posted on April 22, 2013 in Henry's Head, Perspectives
By Andrew Henry

Boston Marathon bombing

I’d been trying to write this piece for the last few days, but I kept getting distracted by news coverage of the Boston marathon bombing. I had the document open on my computer, ready to explain how personal and visceral the attack was to New England residents, but the rapidly evolving story of the two young Chechen brothers who allegedly committed the attack pulled my attention and eyes away from the keyboard and onto the TV screen.

Some online media have been calling the hunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev the “modern manhunt,” and it captured the attention of the public in a way that’s different from other widely covered events. Unlike other tragic events where the culprit is caught close to or directly after the crime, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the bombing he allegedly took part in caused a multi-day citywide manhunt, which is the reason why this was such an attention-grabber.

What happened on Monday will change Boston forever, but more than Boston was affected by this tragedy. Boston is the biggest city in New England and houses most of New England’s major sports teams, and Boston and Portland are cities linked in spirit. It’s a common weekend trip for students from all over Maine to visit Boston.

People around the globe are sending love and condolences to Boston and Watertown. Many places, notably Syria and Ireland, have reached out using social media to send their heartfelt messages, and here at USM, many students know someone who was near the explosions or Watertown, the previously cordoned-off town where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured on Friday.

What does this mean to USM, though? For starters, the Tsarnaev brothers’ rampage made its way through MIT’s campus, and 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev went to the University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth, so while the manhunt spanned many areas around Boston, a good portion of the entire event took place in a college atmosphere. It’s terrifying to think that someone capable of this lived in the dorms among his friends, many of whom publicly described him in positive terms, and there was no suspicion of malicious intent. Colleges in both Maine and Massachusetts are often on “college visit” lists for many high school students in both states looking at colleges to apply to, not to mention that the two states used to be territorially linked. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was the age of many traditional college students, a young adult who partied with friends and took classes just like the rest of us, and early reports are saying that he wanted to fit in with his friends.

So how is it that someone so young and seemingly normal was capable of an action so horrendous? One of the biggest presumptions is the influence of Dzhokhar’s older brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan. Many are wondering if he was the more radical of the two, and how much of a role he played in convincing his younger brother to take part in the attack. Maybe Dzhokhar just looked up to his older brother, like many of us do, and Tamerlan was setting an incredibly poor example for his younger brother. The constant violence in their home region of Chechnya could have also been a factor in the brothers’ attack. Much of this is speculation until the facts of the case are presented to the public, but whatever the reasons are, it’s still bizarre that a 19-year-old college student seemingly like us turned to violence on this scale.

Republican decision of the week

The Republican Liberty Caucus has chosen Portland as the location for their 2015 national conference due to, in part, a letter from Governor Paul LePage.
It says on the RLC website that they “work to advance the principles of individual rights, limited government and free enterprise within the Republican Party and throughout America,” so their goals are pretty straight-forward and don’t stray from typical Republican views. The RLC has ties to the Tea Party, and Ron Paul is one of their endorsed politicians. In fact, they were one of the first groups to endorse LePage during his gubernatorial race.

One of the reasons that this conference is so important for Portland is because of its conservative presence in the area. Portland is a fairly liberal city, and it hasn’t seen much conservative prevalence in the past few years. Although one could count LePage’s win for governor as a Republican influence, it has been seen by many as a negative one. His stubborn stances and belligerent public comments do more to hurt progressive Republican views than help them. A more controlled setting such as a convention that will have a variety of conservative politicians with varying views will help bring a little organization to the way that the convention appears to the liberal-leaning public.

I may be a Democrat myself, but I’m growing tired of the one-sided dialogue in the Portland area. I think that a conservative conference will open up some much needed discussion of Republican stances, as well as educate misinformed citizens who might think that Republicans only care about guns and small business. I may support many liberal positions, but having one controlling viewpoint doesn’t make progress. It takes both Republican and Democratic discussion to advance an issue, something which Portland seems to frequently lack. I’m positive that having the convention in Portland will upset and annoy many people, and I had a similar initial reaction to the announcement. But LePage might not be governor anymore when the convention takes place in 2015, which would change the dynamic of the event drastically because we would have someone other than a Republican in the highest government office in Maine when the convention takes place.

I find that many liberals accuse conservatives as being obstinate, but liberals are also as stubborn much of the time, hence the gridlock in Washington. Finger pointing and name calling doesn’t do anything to help, and we need to keep an open mind about this convention. All I ask is that we keep an open mind, and be receptive to teamwork.