I am not so struck by the glowing testimonials from fellow teenagers and twenty-somethings about the two monstrous Tsarnaevs, to the effect that they seemed great guys. Such is the power of anecdote and emotion over reasoned empiricism in the young untrained mind.
The stranger fact is the adult media’s gullible reporting of these impressions as if they were somehow significant, as if superficial impression is the key to understanding an ideology that drives behavior. The following caricature reflects how one of the present therapeutic society might remark on the death of Adolf Hitler. “I don’t quite understand his violent side. He was a man who simply loved children — certainly he fawned upon the Goebbels kids. He inquired about the health and welfare of his chauffer and valet, and no boss was more considerate of his secretaries. Hitler’s dogs were his pride and joy; I never saw a kinder and more gentler master. Eva Braun simply lit up at his presence. His conversations at dinner were witty, lively, and polite. He gave up almost everything for Germany. And while he seemed troubled at times, I always attributed it to the horrors of the trenches. None of us can quite judge him, or even know what it was like for a young man to be subject to what Hitler endured — only to be unemployed, shamed, and ignored upon returning to a defeated Austria and Germany. It just makes no sense that such a seemingly kind person could commit such horrors. I still can’t quite believe it.”
Do we care whether a man who placed a bomb full of ball bearings next to an eight-year-old boy and blew apart dozens of innocents was nice to his peers? Let us at least hope that the killer Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is not to be known as “unduly influenced by his brother,” “fully American,” “coerced to become violent,” “brain-washed,” and “young and impressionable.”