Thoughts on the Boston Massacre

The following was originally posted by me on TBOH’s Facebook page, but I felt like it was something I wanted to archive here as well.


On March 5, 1770 in the city of Boston, Massachusetts, frustrations between government and civilians came to a head.

“Redcoats” had been stationed in Boston, lodging in the homes of civilians, in response to the colonials resistance to the Townshend Acts. Many of these redcoats were good men who joined the British army to defend their country or sought to make a living when their prospects otherwise were dim. Many of the colonials were good men who had grown frustrated with what they considered the government’s abuse of power which the redcoats were there to enforce.

That day in March, colonials were harassing the redcoats out of frustration and the redcoats were overwhelmed and feeling cornered. Whether they were confused or just hit a breaking point, the soldiers ended up firing into the crowd and five civilians died. Nine redcoats were arrested. Trying to prove that the colonies could do the right thing and ensure justice, John Adams and Josiah Quincy defended the soldiers in court and were able to get them acquitted.

Over two centuries later, it’s still hard to say who was right and who was wrong. No doubt good men suffered on both sides and both sides had not so good men. To the colonials, even a redcoat who was otherwise a good person was not to be trusted because he was there enforcing laws that were unjust. Either way, the events of that day were dubbed the “Boston Massacre” and contributed greatly to the eventual American Revolution.

Right now in this country we have a portion of our civilians frustrated by government abuses, abuses often occurring at the hands of those they are supposed to be able to count on to “serve and protect.”

Perhaps most police are good people, though civilians get frustrated by their enforcing laws that are unjust or the fact that some abuse their power and seem to get off with mere slaps on the wrist.

Likewise most civilians are good people and wouldn’t harm a police officer. Police officers can’t always determine who might though and distrust civilians just as they themselves are distrusted.

Who is “right”? Maybe everyone, maybe no one. The Boston Massacre was important because it was the result of systemic injustice that reached a boiling point because it was not addressed and fixed earlier. It doesn’t really matter whether the redcoats were justified in shooting that day and it doesn’t really matter if the civilians who died were good men or criminals. To their friends and families it mattered. To the courts it mattered. To society what mattered was that there was a larger problem that needed to be fixed and hadn’t been.

Right now there are major problems with our justice system, problems with being ensured due process or that our constitutional rights are protected. Does it matter to society whether the people involved in certain events are good people or criminals? Whether they mean well or meant to abuse power? Or even who is right? No, not really. It matters to their friends and families, but what matters to society is taking steps to ensure that this is addressed so that more people don’t suffer.

Take off the rose colored glasses. Stop drawing lines in the sand as if everyone on one side is an angel and on the other devils. Start looking at the reasons these issues keep coming up. Look at what we can do to fix the problems in the system itself. Find ways to hold people accountable for their actions regardless of whether they were a uniform or not. Learn from history for once.