Right up front: if you’re a member of Martin Richard’s family, Krystle Campbell’s family, Lingzhi Liu’s family, Sean Collier’s family, or if you’re any of the hundreds of people injured by the Boston Marathon bombings, this doesn’t apply to you. I’d have some nerve trying to tell any of you how to feel about anything related to the hell you’re in right now.
The rest of us on the other hand…well, we need to get over it. At any rate, we need to be over it enough to not care where in the hell they bury Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
We’ve insisted that we’re better than the barbarians who did what they did in Copley Square on April 15th. We are. We’ve told anyone who would listen that we’re Boston Strong. We are.
So shouldn’t we have been Boston strong enough not to have done something as barbaric as let someone’s body lie around and rot for days on end because that someone hurt us terribly and therefore by our holy judgement deserved it?
When you refuse burial of the body of your enemy, you’re exacting a fairly pointless revenge. You’re not doing anything that will change anything, heal anybody, resurrect anybody. You just want to do something hurtful to make a point because you’re consumed by frustration and outrage and…
And what is it that terrorists do again?
Everyone connected with the Boston community, even those not directly affected by the bombings, has the right to some bitterness. We’re allowed to feel an emotion best summed up by the words “may he rot in hell.” We’re not allowed to give voice to it or do our best to act on it by holding up a burial.
If we’re going to do that, or if we’re going to start beating up people we think are Muslim because we believed the sheer idiocy of “not every Muslim is a terrorist, but every terrorist is a Muslim” (I first heard that from Gerry Callahan, but it could’ve authored by any number of right-wing lunkheads) or if we’re going to be so hateful as to suggest that Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s widow be arrested simply for wearing a hijab, I am once again forced to ask this question:
Can we at long last give up the delusion that we’re in any way a Christian nation?
Christian behavior is the kind of thing the law enforcement professionals who faced down Dzhokhar Tsarnaev five days after the bombings did. They combed the streets of Watertown not as a death squad out to even the score but as police trying to make an arrest. You’re not supposed to kill anyone when you make an arrest. You’re supposed to secure someone dangerous before anyone else gets hurt. After he was arrested EMTs and doctors and nurses moved heaven and Earth to save Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s life. That’s Christian behavior. All of it was laying down your life for your friends and loving your enemies. You can look that up right in the Gospel.
As living Christian values goes, or just as being decent and fine and noble goes, how does that compare with say pitching a bitch because you don’t want Tamerlan Tsarnaev taking up space in a Cambridge cemetery?
I think the men and women who arrested Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and those who saved his life are who we really are here in Massachusetts, in this nation, in this world. I think the first responders and the blood donors and the anthem singers are who we really are. Somewhere there is a man who has donated his grave to Tamerlan Tsarnaev. We should all hope to be exactly like him when we grow up (and Sean Hannity has probably already called him a traitor). The best of us is us. Experience and the optimism that is part-and-parcel of being a practicing-if-thoroughly-flawed Christian has taught me that.
I know people who attack random Muslims aren’t us. I know those who think they’re somehow serving justice by insisting Tamerlan’s Tsarnaev’s family go through a nightmare trying to lay their justly infamous son to rest aren’t us. I know the likes of Ann Coulter speak for a tiny nasty and irrational minority and they aren’t us.
But they’re here. Once again, they’re here. They’ve insisted on their stage time in this tragic play as they always seem to at times like this. The world will notice them. The part of the world that sees the Tsarnaev brothers as heroes will notice them and say “see, look at that! They talk this big game about how they’re so enlightened, so superior, and look at that!”
I just we all can remember, especially in remembering April 15, 2013, that we are called to better, to be who we really are: as Bostonians, as the people of Massachusetts, as Americans, but mostly as, in the words of Charles Dickens, “fellow travelers to the grave”– the human race.
The race to which we belong and to which Tamerlan Tsarnaev also belonged.