Just as the entire nation did, I too watched the final moments leading up to the capture of Boston Bombing Suspect #2, Dzhokar Tsarnaev, glued to a television screen. At the time, I happen to be eating dinner at a crowded New Jersey restaurant, where a television hung over the bar but was visible from nearly every table in the dining area. Everyone watched in suspense and anticipation. It would now only be a matter of moments before Tsarnaev would be seized by the authorities.
On right side of the screen was Tsarnaev’s photo; the same one that was on the Wanted Posters that were circulated across Boston and broadcasted around the world. I stared at it intently for few moments. I looked into his eyes in search of a killer, a murderer, a ruthless monster. But in all honesty, I didn’t see that. What I did see was a child – a misguided 19-year old kid, who was probably under tremendous influence by his older, domineering brother.
For a brief moment I began to feel bad for him. I tried not to, and drew on piety to help stomp out those emptions. But it was no use; compassion was winning the battle that ensued in my head. I looked around the bar and hoped that no one could hear my thoughts which I feared could be perceived as unpatriotic or un-American. But there was the photo again and on the main screen, a live broadcast of the boat. The authorities were moving in.
I then tried to put myself in his Tsarnaev’ shoes and to feel what he might be feeling. I tried to comprehend his fear and what it might be like to have the weight of every law enforcement agency in United States crushing him. My heart began to race and my palms began to sweat. I tried to recall a situation in my own life when I felt intense fear and anxiety and all I can think about was taking the Series 7 exam. After the exam the test score automatically tallies, which takes about 30 seconds. During those 30 seconds my heart pounded so hard and so fast that I thought it would leap right out of chest and onto the table in front of me. Tsarnaev’s heart must have been racing just like that for days.
We paid the check and left the restaurant. As soon as we got into the car, we turned on the radio. They got him! I could hear the cheers pouring out of the restaurant as we drove away. Thank God, it’s over – Boston could now breadth a sigh of relief. And so did our entire nation.
But I still couldn’t stop thinking about Tsarnaev and wonder why? What could have possibly happened to these two brothers to provoke such violent acts of terror? Perhaps upbringing played a role. I wonder if childhoods that were nurtured in worn-torn countries such as Chechnya, which is extraordinary violent, lay fertile ground for violence to breed within an individual. Does violence then become part of one’s DNA?
It is hard for me to understand what life would be like under conditions of war. And it is difficult to know what kind of person is spawned from a country violently oppressed by another. Where one country holds the other in its hand and squeezes the very life out of it – destroying the spirit of its people, their passion and zest for life; destroying their hope.
Of course none of this excuses Tsarnaev’s actions or justifies his behavior – nor does it entitle him to receive forgiveness. And although his crimes may have been the result of severe brainwashing by his older brother or the Islamic Brotherhood, he is an American citizen now. And as an American he had the right to the very freedoms he sought out to destroy. As an American he had he right to choose.