No surprise: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been found guilty on all thirty counts in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Considering Tsarnaev admitted culpability, the trial seems to have been a formality, a necessary step toward the penalty phase which determines if the young native of Chechnya lives or dies. The guilty verdict is right, justified, true. I suppose I should be pleased, but a big piece of the puzzle remains missing: why?
We’ve all heard Tsarnaev’s political motivation. Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, planted bombs in retaliation for American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. That doesn’t cut it for me. I want to know how this happened. Why did a nineteen year old young man with his whole life ahead of him wickedly turn on his adopted country? How did a college student evolve into a terrorist? What dormant seed of evil or anger took root in the Tsarnaev brothers and grew into a twisted desire to kill? How did Dzhokhar fall prey to his brother’s influence (if, in fact, he did, as the defense claimed)? How does a young man set a bomb in a backpack down on the sidewalk near an innocent eight year old child (Martin William Richard) knowing the child will likely be dead in a matter of minutes? How does someone commit mass murder then casually walk into a deli and purchase a carton of milk? Since Dzhokhar Tsarnaev isn’t talking, and the justice system is not designed to ferret out psychological motivation, these questions will likely never be answered.
The Tsarnaev brothers killed three Boston Marathon spectators, wounded 240 people, and blew the limbs off seventeen individuals. What is proper punishment? The death penalty or life in prison? The “eye for an eye” credo demands the death penalty, but is that satisfactory punishment? (Massachusetts has the death penalty but has not executed anyone since 1947.) A death sentence somehow seems swift, “easy” retribution. Tsarnaev would simply be here one moment, dead the next, his torment ended (presuming, of course, he feels anything close to remorse). Wouldn’t it be better to condemn Tsarnaev to life in prison where his actions can haunt him until the end of his days (if he has a conscience)? Just as there is no easy answer to the “why?” of it all, there is no perfect punishment.
Perhaps the missing puzzle piece is apparent: some people are evil. Period. No further investigation or thought is necessary. But a little part of me looks at Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and wonders how a boy grew up to be a terrorist. What is it about our society that makes the Jihadist mentality attractive to the impressionable? A part of me is sad for mankind’s present position. We are adrift in hostility, defined by our differences, plotting against one another, spreading hatred. Death penalty or life imprisonment for Tsarnaev? I suppose it doesn’t really matter. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s life is pretty much over. He, then, falls victim to the evil he perpetrated. You know what they say: what goes around comes around.
But somehow that just doesn’t seem like enough.