BY FROMA HARROP
The uncle of the accused Boston Marathon bombers got the boys right. They were unable to settle into American life, Ruslan Tsarni told reporters from his home in Maryland, “and thereby just hating everyone who did.” He called the two brothers “losers.” I prefer the term “weaklings.”
As the story thickens with detail, it would seem that the older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, now dead, was the ringleader. So let’s concentrate on him.
Tamerlan would seem the model of the mentally unfit immigrant. Here was an accomplished boxer who couldn’t roll with the punches of American existence.
Fragile personalities often adopt grandiosity as a shield. Making peace with the kind of setbacks that ordinary Americans confront on a regular basis would have made Tamerlan ordinary. Hence, he took the well-trod path of latching onto a radical cause, in his case religious, to inflate his importance.
It takes a whole lot of crossed wires to see blowing up a bunch of innocents as a remedy for what ails. And that’s why Tamerlan’s actual disappointments are so beside the point.
“Life in America Unraveled for Two Young Men,” reads a Wall Street Journal headline. But by the measuring stick of human suffering – even at the higher American scale – Tamerlan was doing OK.
What were his unravelings? The boys’ father had a hard time in America making a living as an auto mechanic. The family lived for a while in subsidized housing. These were not unique circumstances given the sorry state of the economy over the last few years.
Tamerlan reportedly dropped out of college for money reasons. Well, so did Steve Jobs.
Then there was his boxing. “He couldn’t get into the Olympics,” the family’s landlord told a Russian newspaper, “and that was the last thing he really worked hard at.” Many more boxers try to get onto the U.S. Olympic team than succeed. By virtue of having become a Golden Gloves contender, Tamerlan would have been the envy of high-school boxers everywhere.
An assimilated American in his situation would have gone to the Small Business Administration for a loan, set up a boxing school in the neighborhood and continued from there. We can well believe Tamerlan’s statement about Americans, “I don’t understand them.” A courageous man would have simply returned to a culture he felt at home in. Many immigrants do.
This story bears strong resemblance to that of Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani in jail for trying to set off a bomb in Times Square. Like Tamerlan, he had obtained a green card. He had a wife, children and good jobs. But his real estate investments didn’t pan out, and he lost his house to foreclosure.
Had Shahzad made good money in real estate, we probably would have never heard of him. But he didn’t, and rather than try, try again, he turned to radical Islam. Radical Islam provides fragile male egos a class of inferiors to feel superior to. That would be women. One of Shahzad’s solutions included pressuring his soon-to-be-ex-wife into wearing a hijab, a modest Muslim head covering.
At his sentencing, Shahzad puffed himself up, invoking the name of a Muslim warrior from the Crusades. The federal district court judge dryly urged him to spend the time behind bars pondering “whether the Quran wants you to kill lots of people.”
It is not America’s duty to give such troubled individuals therapy and a pile of Lexapro. It is to keep them out of a country they can’t fit into.
The FBI had already talked to Tamerlan about his jihadist interests. We assume the bureau will not shrug at such cases in the future.
– Froma Harrop’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer