Hump Day: Motives of marathon bombers remain tragic puzzle

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

What was I doing in mid-April in the year I turned 19? I do believe I was looking for work to help pay for university, if memory serves correct.

Actually, that’s exactly what I was doing. In fact, in a few weeks — early May, I think — I would hear that I finally landed my first-ever job working for the Moncton Kinsmen Club putting together a newspaper for the 1983 National Kinsmen Convention held here in Moncton.

I had no car — no driver’s licence yet, even. I was as poor as a church mouse. With the financial support of my parents (and the government), I managed to finish my first year of journalism school at the University of King’s College without having found a job the previous summer. Luckily, though, I managed to land a job in my field between my first and second years. Boy, was I happy! At least I’d have some spending money!

I hung out with friends. I may have even accidentally found myself sitting in a bar with them from time to time. Accidentally, of course. Completely accidentally. No idea how that happened!

Pretty much the furthest thing from my mind was blowing up a crowd of people — killing three of them, including a child, and sending limbs flying everywhere. But somehow, that’s what the now-infamous terrorist suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev allegedly decided to do on April 15 along with his older brother — and thought-to-be mastermind behind the heinous act — Tamerlan, age 26, who was killed during a shootout.

While it’s true that I don’t have an older brother to influence me, I have to wonder what the heck was going through this kid’s mind when he started going down the road toward the time he and his brother decided, if he is found guilty, on the evil path they took.

When I was 19, I worried about how to pay for university. I concentrated on saving money to pay for my second year. I thought about my career and the next three years of university — years that seemed like an eternity to me then. Thirty years later, they were but a blink of an eye. The perspective of time and age does that to you.

Many suggest that Dzhokhar, age 19, was brainwashed by his older brother, something that certainly seems quite plausible as time moves on. Was this the case of a radicalized older brother recruiting his impressionable younger brother into committing heinous acts? Is it just that simple? Perhaps. But behind that “brainwashing” is a ton of political and social history that I’m certainly no expert in trying to explain — so I won’t even try. The reasons why the older brother decided to do what he did may never be known unless his surviving younger brother decides to spill the beans.

Early reports out of Boston seem to imply that he’s ready to give some answers on why this happened. But will any explanation ever be good enough? Will any explanation ever be good enough for the parents of young Martin Richard, the eight-year-old boy who was killed? And do I need to mention that, with a last name like Richard, little Martin was perhaps descended from Acadian stock who originated from around these parts? Like I said in last week’s column, the Maritimes have many ties to Boston.

And what about those who were forever maimed by those pressure cooker bombs? Or the spectators who were simply there to cheer on runners? Or the runners who’d trained for months or years to fulfil their dream of running in the Boston Marathon? Or the people who spent their time keeping physically fit — staying healthy — setting fitness goals and working toward them day after day?

And what about those who were physically unhurt but who witnessed the carnage? I appeared on a local radio show last week to discuss the bombings and how they played out on social media. Before my interview began, I listened to Moncton lawyer and former New Brunswick cabinet minister Mike Murphy’s horrific account of what he and his wife saw since they were both very near the actual blasts. I was shocked at what I heard.

Anyone who knows Mike knows that he’s definitely no shrinking violet and isn’t easily intimidated, to say the least, but it was clear from that interview that he was deeply traumatized by what he’d seen. Who wouldn’t be? This wasn’t a television show. It was real life. Dead people. People with missing arms. People with missing legs. People covered in blood. How could anyone see that and not be deeply and powerfully affected?

It’s an understatement to say that Dzhokhar made some terrible choices that hurt many people and left an entire city and nation on edge. And I certainly don’t want to make myself sound terribly sympathetic, either. If convicted the guy deserves to be locked up until his last breath is drawn. Hopefully, one day he’d repent and beg for forgiveness.

Like his uncle said on television, he’s brought shame upon his family and heritage. I’ll add that he’s also brought shame upon humanity and his religion. I know Muslims and they’re certainly not warmongers or terrorists. And if you look at the list of recent domestic terrorist attacks in the U.S., non-Muslims make up the huge percentage of perpetrators. Regardless, Dzhokhar didn’t do his religion any favours.

When I was 19, I was also young and stupid. At least we have that in common.

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