Just finished reading Rolling Stone’s article on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and I agree with the magazine’s approach with the cover

The “controversial” cover of Rolling Stone this week.

There was a major uproar online via Twitter and Facebook feeds and comment sections when the cover of the newest issue of Rolling Stone was unveiled.

As you can see by the cover, it is the image of Dzhokhar “Jahar” Tsarnaev, the surviving terrorist from the Boston Marathon attacks. The article that accompanies the cover talks about his upbringing and his months leading up to the attack. Its goal was to give us a better understanding of the man behind the tragedy.

But of course with this day and age of people judging books by covers, the outcry from the people claimed that the magazine was glorifying the terrorist with the cover. Somehow the image of him looking like a rock star was an insult to the families affected by the tragedy.

Had they read the article first, they might have had a different tone.

I will agree that a better picture could have been used. They didn’t have to use the one that made him look “too cool for school” or the one where he looks all prettied up for a magazine cover shoot. But like I said, after reading the article, I think the picture was perfect. It captured a side of him that everyone else knew of him. It’s shocking because he looks just like an average 19-year-old.

The article itself goes into the life of Jahar and his influences. The article’s foundation is built on the accounts of his teachers, coaches and the friends that knew him best. It’s with that that we get to see who this guy was.

And the crazy thing about him was that the guy he was sounds a lot like some of the friends I have. In fact, he and I shared some similarities too.

That’s the part of the article that made this cover right. I agree with Rolling Stone using this cover because in a sense, the image captured exactly who he was: a 19-year-old still finding his place in the world.

CHECK OUT OTHER CONTROVERSIAL MAGAZINE COVERS IN AMERICAN HISTORY

In the article, they also talk about his influences of his family stemming from his parents’ divorce and desertion, his brother’s alienation and the struggle to find a place to belong. His finances were a burden to him and most times, he felt alone. This isn’t to make me feel sympathetic for him, but it does show that he was a regular teen that went through things that many other people experience too. It makes you wonder how a guy that I see a little of myself in could end up causing such a terrible act.

There isn’t any “glorifying” with the magazine cover if you read the article. And when you read the article, there isn’t anything in there that puts him up on a pedestal. What you get is a journey into the lost soul of a young teen that had so much promise. We could see ourselves in him. We could see that he would be a guy that we could befriend.

But somehow, someway, something clicked and he no longer became that boy. He was lost. And we’re left wondering why. That’s the entire point of the article. Despite learning so much more about him, we still don’t know who he is now. And many times when we look back at history, it’s that mystery about a person’s motive that makes us feel so incomplete. There is no closure. And there probably will never be.

Until he tells us his side of the story — if he ever decides to — we’ll be left to wonder how a boy so wonderful could turn so wrong and hurt so many. The article and the cover photo capture that perfectly. And it breaks my heart that it did.

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FINAL THOUGHT

I am in no way saying that Jahar should receive outpouring sympathy. But if you know me, I see things a little differently than the average person. Human behavior, society influence, fascinates me. There’s a certain thing about understanding people that gets to me. 

So the opportunity to understand the mind of a terrorist fascinated me. It’s crazy to think that this guy shared some similarities as me (rap music, likes having fun, caring for friends, enjoyed sports) yet could have so much hate and hurt in his heart. It really shows that we can’t always see the red flags. Sometimes, people snap.

I wasn’t expecting resolution in this article. The people affected by this tragedy will still be hurting. The ones who lost their lives will not come back. It hurts my heart that there are people that still could do so much violence. But at least I have a little bit better understanding how and why it happened. Maybe with this knowledge, we can avoid history repeating itself. 

And it hurts my heart even more knowing that such an act could come from a young man that many thought was a good person. 

This was a brave cover to run by RS and an even braver article to publish. But I applaud the magazine. I’ve been a subscriber for several years now and the magazine has never been shy about touching on the topics that aren’t exciting to talk about. From stories of mental diseases, suicide and mistreatment in prison, the magazine has continued to cover the darkness that we usually like to avoid and pretend doesn’t exist. A story like this on Jahar is not anything new by the magazine’s standards.

My last reaction is that we should continue to pray for the victims, the families and all those affected by this. I also would pray that our justice system does what’s right with Jahar. I also pray for Jahar too. We’re all hurting and the last thing we need is to turn away from each other. 

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