So we wait to hear the words of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old suspect apprehended for the Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent spree of murder and mayhem. This kid lies in a hospital bed in serious condition with a throat injury, intubated and sedated, while an elite counter-terrorism team stands by to interrogate him the moment he is able to talk. The world waits to hear his reasons, his ideology…anything that can help us understand why and how this horrible chain of crimes came to pass.
I am afraid that this kid won’t have much to tell us that we don’t already know. I suppose the hope is that he can give us a glimpse into the mind of a cunning, evil terrorist, connect us with other potential criminals of the same ilk, or provide us with new intelligence that will lead to more arrests, thus potentially preventing more harm and violence.
All I can see from my limited vantage point is a brainwashed, grievously injured adolescent boy lying in that hospital bed. My guess is that he was under the influence of his powerful older brother who was apparently totally off the rails with his anger and frustration and religious zeal, and that they both suffered trauma in their childhoods that helped push them onto the path that led them to commit these heinous acts of violence.
I fear that the only thing we will really learn from this kid is what we already know about human nature, which is that seemingly normal people can be swayed and influenced to commit unspeakable acts of violence. It will be brought to our attention again that the power of even one person’s disordered, distorted, evil mindset is enough to start a chain reaction of events that can ultimately lead to the death and harming of multitudes of people.
We will learn once again that religious extremism is nothing but infectious mental illness in disguise as some kind of righteousness. We will be reminded that adolescent males are capable of inflicting horrible injury on others and society when they get off track, whether it be through the influence of religious extremism, childhood abuse or neglect, mental illness, drug abuse and addiction, boredom, or any other kind of distorted thinking and resulting behavior.
The power that each of us has is stunning really. Whether it is in the day-to-day choices we make for ourselves, or the responsiblity and time we take to guide and mentor our youth whether they are our own children or someone else’s kids. That said, we can only do so much for others. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev by all accounts was a nice kid, described by many friends and acquaintances as “friendly”, “sociable”, “a wonderful kid”. Sometimes things go horribly wrong despite the best efforts of parents, teachers and other adults involved in raising kids.
Our power as individuals lies primarily in our ability to control our own thinking and behavior. Clearly we have limited power over the thinking and actions of others. If each and every one of us takes care of our own health and fitness, our communities will become larger reflections of that. Ultimately it seems, the only real answers are to be found within ourselves.