looking within for answers

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.


9 thoughts on “looking within for answers

  1. Thank you so much for this. You have put into words what I have been thinking, but have been unable to articulate.

    “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.” I completely agree. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev might turn out to be more “normal” than the monster we were all imagining at first.

  2. As always you fearlessly wade into the muck. the unclear world that we all ready know about but not all of us know about obviously. Ignorance is the cause, Lust is the cause, a desire for distinction at any cost to others or ourselves. Lets hope he lives to tell about it and his ignorance is squashed by a quite time of reflection. But will he be sent to Quantanimo for water boarding , or to solitary for reminding that we’re all humans with flaws and tolerance is the only hope for all of us.

  3. What he did was unspeakable but he is still someone’s child. The first thing that came to mind when I saw his photograph was that he is 3 years younger than the youngest descendent. I just wanted to hug him and say the things I would say to the boys, “Oh Sweetie, what were you THINKING?” I feel so very sorry for his parents.

  4. As much as I liked your post and felt the sorrow — I don’t quite understand some of the comments. I sure didn’t feel like hugging Dzhokhar Tsarnaev or calling him “Sweetie.” Despite my abundance of compassion, I choose to save my sorrow for the parents of the 8-year old boy, Krystale, the family of the security guard, and the grieving parents of the Chinese girl here to get her masters’ degree. These were the INNOCENT victims of these young men who decided to place a bomb full of nails, ball bearings and skin-piercing missiles in the middle of a crowd of enthusiastic bystanders. And shoot a security guard sitting in his car. And cause an entire city to come to a grinding halt. And patiently assemble maiming bombs in their apartment. I totally agree with your assessment that adolescent boys & young men can go haywire in a terrifying way — and that is something we as a society need to look at a lot more closely.

    • Hi Betty, I was thinking about your comment as I went about my business today. I think what the commenter above is trying to express, I think…is her visceral reaction to seeing the innocent, familiar-looking photos of this young man, smiling in pictures, lying on the ground with his slim belly and boxer shorts spilling over his pants, it’s unreal and hard to bear as a parent. I too have an abundance of compassion, and I tend to be one to see all sides of an issue, but like you said, I cannot expend my energy and sorrow on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a person who made a series of conscious choices that have led to so much suffering and pain for others. I do hope that at this point his life serves some meaning in that he can shed some light on what caused him go down this horrible path, and perhaps give some kind of insight that can be helpful to society or perhaps his victims. Like I said, I am just afraid there won’t be any answers that bring any peace or real understanding.

    • My initial reaction was inspired by my experience with kids and the fact that under unimaginable circumstances I could be the parent of that 19 year old. I can’t imagine the doubt and guilt the parents of the boys will live with for the rest of their lives. The 19 year old looks very much like the boys who have been in and out of my kitchen for years. I don’t know what a parent would do in such a situation.
      Of course, I cannot imagine the horror of being any one of the victims of the blast. People’s lives have ended or been completely disrupted physically and financially. I understand the enormity of the fact that death is final and there won’t be a second chance.
      I identified with the parents of those brothers because my stepsons are 26 and 22 and, in may way, still seem like boys to me.

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