How far should one go in the name of friendship? The Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “Misfortunes show who are really your friends.” When bad things happen sometimes people you thought were friends aren’t there for you anymore. But is it fair to say that friends should still stand by you in the event that you implicate yourself in a misdeed?
Last week, the friendship between three 19-year olds and one of the Boston Bombers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev landed the three college boys in FBI custody. Three friends of Dzhokhar: two Kazakhs Azamat Tazhayakov, Dias Kadyrbavev and an American named Robel Philippos were taken in Federal custody for obstruction of justice. This came as a result of their alleged attempt to eliminate evidence of Dzhokhar’s involvement in the tragic Boston bombings.
Although their loyalty to their friend is touching, the fact that Dzhokar and his brother Tamerlan caused so many injuries to innocent people and the deaths of three made the act rather foolish, if not criminal. The two Kazakhs told the police they were allowed to take anything from Dzhokar’s room when the suspect was wanted by FBI officials, and as a result grabbed his laptop and a bag full of fireworks that had been emptied of their explosive powder. They were also told by the suspect a month earlier that he “knew how to make a bomb”. Philippos was charged with lying to federal investigators after giving conflicting statements as to how the three gained possession of the items.
They were quoted by police as saying that they threw away the valuables upon hearing of the manhunt for Dzhokhar as they, “did not want him to get in trouble.” It was a noble defense of their friend indeed, but one which violated Federal law and could result in stiff penalties for the three students of the University of Massachussets-Dartmouth.
This leads us back to the question: how far should one go to honor friendship?
In the story of “The Republic” by Plato, Socrates argued that each individual had a moral obligation to one another and that even though one is indebted to a friend, if that crosses their ethics then he is obliged not to fulfill that debt. Socrates gave this example: if a friend gave you his ax when he is in the right state of mind and asked for it back when he goes insane, although it is your friend’s property and he has the right to reclaim it, it is your moral obligation not give the ax to him in order to save the friend from doing something regrettable.
The code of friendship could not be better defined by that. Friendship crosses the line when it puts you or your friend in danger, true friendship should not put your morals at risk. It should seek to preserve one’s ethics and to protect each other from breaking it.
The friends of Dzhokhar fell short of their duties when they hid evidence from authorities, because look where their friend is now: in prison. The moment Dzhokhar informed them of his knowledge to create a weapon of mass destruction, it should have been enough to make authorities aware of it. Perhaps then, the Boston bombings would not have occurred and their friend would not be in prison. Better yet, his brother Tamerlan may still be alive to this day.
Instead however, all three of them will join Dzhokhar in facing justice and feeling the full force of the law.