Saturday, June 22, 2013
A big question mark
Have you ever had a question inside that is maddeningly puzzling?
You ponder and study and woolgather, but you are no closer to an answer that you were when you started.
It’s hard, isn’t it?
Here is the question, and I’m not the only one asking it:
Why did Dzhokhar Tsarnaev participate in the Boston Marathon bombings?
What could make an uber-normal nineteen-year old college student, loving junk food and rap and sports (according to his now-abandoned Twitter account) place a pressure cooker bomb on a crowded sidewalk? When those bombs went off, they weren’t going to start tickling people.
Unlike Osama bin Laden, or the blood-stained men who conducted the Woolwich attack, Dzhokhar is one of us. An American, literally (a naturalized citizen) as well as figuratively.
What made you do it, Dzhokhar?
Did you look up to your big brother too much? Did he bully you into it – or worse?
To some, the answer to this question is already settled: Dzhokhar didn’t do it. Period.
These are the #FreeJahar folk. To read their Tumblrs is to dive into a heady bouillabaisse of sweet infatuation and wishful-thinking conspiracy theories.
Some other people, those with hair-trigger outrage, say that the #FreeJaharists should be thrown out of America. Or have the U.S. government keep watch on them (more than it already does). Some even point to this as proof that women should never have received the right to vote. (Ah, you wise men, you.)
I believe the #FreeJaharists are not evil; they are not saying, “yay, terrorism!” but throwing themselves into “saving” a boy close to their own age because it gives them a purpose outside themselves. They are simply naïve and in denial (and seriously, who among us has never been either?) When more facts see the light of day – and they will, in time – most of the #FreeJaharists will look back on this period in their lives with a blush of embarrassment. No further consequences are necessary.
As I said before, we must judge this young man by the facts we will discover about him. All of the facts, the good and the bad. If we find out that Dzhokhar genuinely believed that using a weapon of mass destruction to kill people was the best way to get his message across – he will be sentenced to die. If there are serious mitigating circumstances, and if he is genuinely remorseful – given America’s attitude towards terrorism, he will spend the rest of his life in prison. When you’re nineteen, that’s a long, long time.
Barring outstanding contrary evidence, I can’t imagine any better outcome.
That is why I keep asking the question: this heartbreaking waste of a life is one more tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombings.