Archive for April, 2013

Sympathy for the Devil

Posted: April 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

Vladimir Lenin has a quote that I’ve posted a few times this week.  It goes: “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”  That’s how I feel about this week; I can’t believe, for instance, that it was a week ago that I returned from one of the more rewarding experiences of my ResLife career thus far, helping to facilitate a retreat out of the Dean’s office.  It seems like months.

In this past week, I’ve come the closest to prayer as I have in years.  Monday, as I learned about the bombings, a (quite literally) sobering moment, I asked whatever power was listening to make sure that everyone I knew was okay, specifically the students and friends who I knew were running.  The second time was last night, as I asked for the police not to kill Dzhokhar (nickname: Jahar) Tsarnaev.  Not even, necessarily, because I wanted answers, but because after reading about him over the past hours, I couldn’t help but think he could have been someone I knew.

The media keeps trying to find some villainy in his twitter account, but it’s not really there.  People keep pointing to the following tweet:

‏@J_tsar15 Apr @MelloChamp and they what “god hates dead people?” Or victims of tragedies? Lol those people are cooked

But, if I’m reading it correctly, he was mocking the Westboro Baptist Church who were going to picket the funerals of the Marathon bombing.  I read cooked as kooked (like, kooky).  Maybe I’m being too generous, but that’s what it looked like to me.

The rest of his tweets are pretty much what I’ve read in some of my own friends’ accounts.  Jokes about movies and television shows, about smoking pot, a few misogynistic or homophobic remarks here or there, his hesitation about expressing excitement for getting his citizenship because it was on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, but nothing out of the ordinary for a 19 year old college student.  In fact, aside from his heading photo, reading “Salam Aleikum,” there is little to identify his faith tradition (and certainly nothing to suggest extremism).  He reminds me of a few stoner friends of mine, who also have been known to posit conspiracy theories about 9/11 being a government job. He jokes about beer pong, complains about waking up early, and tweeted about the election.

When I read his account, the reactions of his friends and roommates, the denial of his parents (and what parent wouldn’t deny to their dying day that their child could commit such an atrocity?), I can’t help but remember: he’s someone’s son.  He’s someone’s friend.  He’s someone’s student.  I can’t imagine the fear he felt as he realized that the entire commonwealth was searching for him; I can’t imagine the anguish he felt after he realized that he killed his brother in his attempt to flee from the police; I can’t imagine what it was like to lie in that boat, bleeding, hungry, scared.

Perhaps I give him too much credit.  I find it hard to believe what I’m writing, myself.  Maybe he is as foreign as we would all like him to be; an outsider, a sociopath, a monster.  It’s easier that way, isn’t it?  It’s easier that way to make sense of that photo that shows him putting down the bag right next to young Martin Richard.  It’s easier to understand how he or his brother could shoot Sean Collier in his police cruiser, just out of the academy.

It’s definitely hard to reconcile his humanity with the fear he caused: the fear that literally locked down a major metropolitan area as a manhunt ensued.

But if you read some of Jahar’s other tweets, you seem him express frustration at the notion that Islam is synonymous with terror, and frustration towards members of his own faith community who don’t understand how he came to Islam (presumably because he’s Caucasian), and the selfishness of suicide.  He’s not your stereotypical fundamentalist.

One thing is for certain: we cannot use this as an excuse to create the same type of fear and malice towards Islam as we did on 9/11.  That he spent his time smoking pot and drinking beer is testament to the fact that Jahar was not a devout Muslim.  Maybe when he wakes up, he’ll tell us it was about Chechen freedom.  Or maybe it will be something else entirely.  But, as we continue in the days and weeks ahead, I hope that you all will remember that this bombing was not, in any way, a religious act.  It does not represent a nationality or a people.  It was an isolated act of aggression and a tragedy.

And I also hope that you will keep the perpetrator of this incident in your thoughts/prayers as he recovers in the hospital, as well as his victims.  As Mark Twain said: “But who prays for Satan? Who in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most, our one fellow and brother who most needed a friend yet had not a single one, the one sinner among us all who had the highest and clearest right to every Christian’s daily and nightly prayers, for the plain and unassailable reason that his was the first and greatest need, he being among sinners the supremest?”

Regardless of your thoughts on the above, there is one thing I think we can all agree on: we are grateful for the men and women who brought Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev to justice; that protected the people of Boston, of Watertown, and of Cambridge – indeed, that protected entire greater Boston area.  We are grateful for the spirit and the resilience of the people of this great city, who joined in unity last night in catharsis either by celebrating in the streets, or, as I did, by having a good cry and getting the first restful night’s sleep in a while.

We are indeed Boston Strong.