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The Good, the Bad, and the TerroristCraig A Michaud / Flickr | FBI

The Good, the Bad, and the Terrorist


May 9 2013
Searching for an explanation for evil.

In the weeks since two bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, we've learned much about the two young men first introduced to us as "Suspect 1" and "Suspect 2" in blurry images released by the FBI. The ongoing investigation into the lives of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his now deceased brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, have revealed detail after detail about their family, friends, education, hobbies, travels, religious practices, politics, and personalities. But no degree of in-depth reporting or FBI investigation will be able to answer our biggest question: What makes someone commit such unimaginably evil acts?

That's what we really want to know. What terrible things could've burrowed deeply into Dzhokhar's soul? What horrors drove him and Tamerlan to unleash a nightmare reality upon the innocents of Boston? The questions loom larger for Dzhokhar, the surviving younger brother, now in a prison medical facility. By all accounts, he was a good guy, and his friends never dreamed that he'd be involved in this kind of crime. High school teacher Larry Aaronson notes:

There is nothing in his character, in his deportment, in his demeanor that would suggest anything remotely capable of any of these things that he is now suspected of doing. He was so grateful to be here, he was so grateful to be at the school...he was compassionate, he was caring, he was jovial.

Is it any wonder that Dzhokhar's mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, refuses to believe that her sons are the jihadist kind, repeatedly telling the media they were framed? While we may shake our heads in utter disbelief over her refusal to face reality, I suppose that it's hard for any of us, at least initially, to believe that those we know, and maybe even love, could be guilty of bold-faced evil.

Maybe we forget that evil, like the devil, can come disguised as an angel of light. We've all been shocked—and perhaps denied it possible—when friends, acquaintances, relatives, and even Christian leaders do something unthinkable. It's hard to reconcile their good public behavior with the evil deeds that eventually become public. Maybe we forget how quickly each one of us can become ugly. We doubt our own depravity often thinking that the evil person is always the other person, someone we don't know.

During the week of the bombings and police chase, Dzhokhar alternated between criminal behavior and good-guy demeanor, killing and maiming innocent strangers one day and partying with college friends and working out at the gym the next.

Related Topics:Boston, MA; Evil; Sin; Terrorism
From: May 2013

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The Good, the Bad, and the Terrorist