When I look at the recent cover of Rolling Stone featuring Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, I don’t see a glamorous photo chosen by Rolling Stone to immortalize Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an ethnic, monster version of Jim Morrison. What I see is the same photo pulled off Twitter that was floating around for days on national television, when no one was saying Dzhokhar Tsarnaev looked like a rockstar at all. Instead, Tsarnaev was only known by his hat or photos of a much younger boy than the one who was chased through Boston.
Please understand, the Boston Marathon bombings sickened me.
How people can be so cruel to one another boggles my mind in even the most basic inconsiderate actions. I can understand the surviving victims and families of victims of the Boston Marathon bombing may not want to see or ever understand how these heinous actions ever became reality.
But to everyone else who has the wherewithal to read this month’s issue of Rolling Stone, to gain insight into how anyone of any age, race, ethnicity, or gender can be shaped into nothing but a black void for causing death, but somehow only sees glorification, I have two words for you: Too bad.
According to the Rolling Stone article, “Jahar” Tsarnaev’s story is one familiar to all of us when any kind of atrocious murder or needless suicide happens. “The one who slipped through the cracks” becomes the label for any person who suddenly goes off the rails with seemingly zero warning signs. Jahar was reported by his friends to have all the characteristics of someone we would like: cool, collected, eager to do us a favor, willing to party, won’t put us down. People who knew him are unwilling to believe this kid who tweeted common sentiments close to any of ours on any given day could be capable of anything truly harmful. In the article, any time a friend, coach, or expert says there were not any warning signs, Rolling Stone follows up with increasingly radical statements from Jahar’s social media, or tells a story where Jahar admits to a friend he believes some terrorist acts are justified. Jahar’s friends repeatedly stopped these conversations or brushed it off.
Not to read the cover story on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev because of the featured picture is the ultimate dismissal, no matter how disgusted you are by the Boston bombings. Many of us have no clue what it is to be an immigrant teenager taught to identify with a Chechnyan nationality when you have never lived in Chechnya. Whose parents divorce, move back to Russia, and leave you with a brother who is rapidly spinning into radical religiosity. None of this justifies Jahar’s actions, but to be lost as an individual is to be lost in spirit. Why Jahar was willing to accept the distorted Islamic views of his brother Tamerlan is not laid out in the Rolling Stone article. The only psychological sentiment explained through the profile of Jahar is one of being unable to reconcile gaining so much education and opportunity through America while his family took a turn for the worst in the same space.
I wish the article was able to better trace the turning point in Jahar Tsarnaev’s mind. We will never know the moment when Jahar determined killing innocent people would somehow make the world more aware of its own self-righteous actions. Nearly 70 years have passed since the last World War, but there are still leaders who taunt the world with nuclear missiles while others oppress their women and children to the point of poisonings at school. In the case of the Boston bombings, tragedy was wrought by a young person who appeared relatively harmless, and who used to this assumption to his advantage when the community’s attention was turned in the other direction.
What we can learn is the quality of life Jahar experienced, why his friends were willing to ignore his few extreme statements, how some people are still unwilling to believe the boy who was a captain of his wrestling team is the same boy in court for mass murder.
The latter statement is common when the person who commits these acts is well known in a community, which is why the biggest mistake we can make is to condemn any journal or publication for picturing a terrorist or murderer as who they were every other day before the event happened. Revealing Jahar Tsarnaev’s life as the every day college student hanging out with his friends mirrors so many people we know and love that the idea of anyone harboring Jahar’s intentions is reality shaking. If we actually knew any person who committed such a horrible crime, would we try to justify their reasonings to ourselves for the sake of their memory?
Perhaps we feel threatened the most because Jahar used the liberties we all enjoy as a means to threaten that same freedom.
Czechoslovakian author Ivan Klíma once described freedom by philosophizing, “But I am more and more convinced that an action can be free only if it is inspired by humanity, only if it is aware of a higher judge. It cannot be linked to acts of arbitrariness, hatred or violence, nor indeed to personal selfish interest. The amount of freedom is not increasing in our age, even though it may sometimes seem to be. All that increases is the needless movement of things, words, garbage, and violence. And because nothing can vanish from the face of the planet, the fruits of our activity do not liberate us but bury us.”
When I look at the Boston Marathon bombing through the lens of the previous quotation I see Jahar Tsarnaev’s plots were not only devoid of true purpose, but also landed him in a lifelong cage where he will be the example of freedom gone wrong.
If we are ever to truly understand why people plan bombings, or any attack big or small, we must take into account their entire being. Jahar Tsarnaev was considered a good person among his friends, but now a ruthless conspirator. At the end of the Rolling Stone article, the author references a lesser-known story of Jahar crying for two days after he woke up in the hospital. The author also adds, “But, then again, no one knows what he was crying about.” It’s possible Jahar cried for the loss of himself, for the loss of freedom he claimed to be acting under, or even loss of family he will never see again. Who knows?
What I do know is, when I read the article, all I felt was loss. Loss for America for failing to shine brighter in this young man’s eyes, loss for people who will never live those series of days down, loss of understanding how so many things could go so wrong and cause such catastrophic consequences.
The mountain of loss grows if the information presented by Rolling Stone is refused by society because of a picture we have all seen before if our TV had been turned on at any point during coverage.
By looking away, we lose the chance to stop disbelieving people can be turned against their own kind, be it through moments of weakness or raging hatred. If we start examining the motives of historical mass murders like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother, we can remain surprised yet ready to change the cultural and religious divides causing all this pain.
Lauren Mack: Co-founder of The Well Written Woman is an aspiring writer, blogger, and overall enthusiast of brainstorms. She is a graduate of Flagler College with a BA in English Literature and has no intentions to teach. Lauren spends a lot of time reading novels and hoping she can one day finish her own. She often wonders how they made blue cheese so delicious. Really, she is just imposing her elitist attitude on everyone. You can find her pennings at her blog and follow her on Twitter.