Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I think I may have figured it out.

Woke up this morning to someone on Facebook sharing the news that Boston's mayor is pissing himself because Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is on the cover of Rolling Stone.  Because, as we all know, the Ted Kaczynski, Tim McVeigh, and Osama bin Laden never ever graced a single magazine cover, and no murderer has ever been the subject of an in-depth article examining his personal history.  And, of course, Rolling Stone only ever puts musicians on their cover.

So then my husband lays the claim (which I am certain he's only repeating from elsewhere, because I know where he sleeps, and he sleeps deeply) that they're "making excuses for the dude."

Well, maybe that's it.  Except...if you read the article, they really aren't.

Hell, this is right there on page one (of five):

No one saw a thing. "I knew this kid, and he was a good kid," Payack says, sadly. "And, apparently, he's also a monster."

(Payack, by the way, was Tsarnaev's wrestling coach.)

The problem seems to be that, by failing to dehumanize a murderer, he is somehow being glorified.  Which is, of course, patently ridiculous.

Look, murderers all have one thing in common, beyond the obvious: they're human.

Evil is human.  Uniquely human, perhaps.  Animals kill for food, and they kill for dominance, but they don't kill for ideology or jealousy or momentary passing anger.  Humans do all of those things.

But we don't like to admit that.  

And it's understandable.  Those people who do those horrible things, they can't possibly be like you and I, can they?  It's a continuation of the whole "It can't happen here" thing.  We like to think that murderers have to be obviously broken.  Ugly, maybe.  We want to think that they're notably different from the rest of us.

But they aren't.

They are people like this:

Jahar's friends were a diverse group of kids from both the wealthier and poorer sections of Cambridge; black, white, Jewish, Catholic, Puerto Rican, Bangladeshi, Cape Verdean. They were, as one Cambridge parent told me, "the good kids" – debate champs, varsity athletes, student-government types, a few brainiacs who'd go off to elite New England colleges. A diligent student, Jahar talked about attending Brandeis or Tufts, recalls a friend I'll call Sam, one of a tight-knit group of friends, who, using pseudonyms, agreed to speak exclusively to Rolling Stone. "He was one of the realest dudes I've ever met in my life," says Sam, who spent nearly every day with Jahar during their teens, shooting hoops or partying at a spot on the Charles River known as the "Riv." No matter what, "he was the first person I'd call if I needed a ride or a favor. He'd just go, 'I got you, dog' – even if you called him totally wasted at, like, two or three in the morning."

"He was just superchill," says another friend, Will, who recalls one New Year's Eve when Jahar packed eight or nine people – including one in the trunk – into his green Honda Civic. Of course, he adds, the police pulled them over, but Jahar was unfazed. "Even if somebody caught him drinking," says his buddy Jackson, "he was the calm, collected kid who always knew how to talk to police."

He had morals, they all agree. "He never picked on anybody," says Sam, adding that much like his brother, Jahar was a great boxer. "He was better at boxing than wrestling – he was a beast." But while he could probably knock out anyone he wanted, he never did. "He wasn't violent, though – that's the crazy thing. He was never violent," says Sam.
That's the truth of things, OK?  The way most murderers are.  Susan Smith didn't go around torturing animals; she was from all accounts a devoted mother, right up until she wasn't.

And Jahar Tsarnaev was a nonviolent, chill dude right up until he wasn't.

It's scary. And I can understand the desire to not acknowledge that reality.  But it is reality.  And to confuse presenting a human as a human with somehow glorifying him...Well, to borrow a phrase from Borepatch--shut up and sit down, grown-ups are talking.


Dave said...

How many books have been written about Hitler (I hereby invoke Godwin's Law) yet I'm sure very few glorify him. I haven't read the article, but that kid is clearly an interesting and valid topic.

Borepatch said...

This post is an example of why I read you.

peter said...

I thought the whole thing was an over reaction myself. I saw a tweet comparing the cover to Tiger Beat. I guess people hate it because he doesn't look evil.

les1 said...

Dad always said it was the nice looking guys who were the meanest. Because they could get away with it.