Apparently I have something in common with the nation’s latest terrorist; we both love going to the Midwest Grill, a Brazilian BBQ Restaurant in my (our?) neighborhood. We were also both captains of our respective high school wrestling teams and members of the National Honor Society. His friends from high school talked about him going out of his way to help out, giving rides home, and coming back to his high school to help out for wrestling practice after he had graduated–all things I can relate to. For all those reasons–not to mention the fact that he only lived about a quarter mile from me–it’s really hard for me not to relate to him.
Which makes the events of the last week all that much more baffling for me. How could this kid get so twisted that he placed two bombs in a crowd of people, shot a police officer in cold blood, and hijacked a car at gun-point?
I have nothing but sympathy for the friends and families of the victims. The eight year old boy whose life was ended just as it was beginning. The graduate student from China who loved living in Boston. The restaurant manager from the suburbs who never missed a marathon. And the MIT officer who was the consummate policeman.
But it’s the bomber, suspect number two, the one who was just arraigned on federal charges from a hospital room yesterday… he’s the one whose story seems most familiar to me. And yet he’s the one who maybe I will never understand. Because for all the similarity, how could I understand what drove him to commit such an act of evil–an act that is so viscerally repellent to me I have trouble even watching the footage of it?
Understanding is especially difficult because human motives are never easily understood. They are never so simple as we would like them to be. It would be nice if there were a simple, clean, explanation for why he did it. His evil brother made him do it. His felt abandoned by his family. He felt abandoned by his friends. He fell in with a bad crowd. He started listening to the wrong preachers. He was depressed. He was angry. He was on drugs. He was crazy.
But the truth is always more complicated. The truth is some combination of some or all of those things–and more. The truth is that human beings are extraordinarily intricate creatures who usually don’t fully know why we do what we do, and who rationalize our behavior after the fact to make ourselves feel better about what we’ve done.
The best we can do is to understand his actions and associations. Did anyone help him or fund him or advise him? What else were they planning on doing? Did they commit any other crimes before the marathon? Those are all important questions.
As for motive? Why he did it? As much as I would love to know… it’s a fool’s errand.
Finally, let me end by quoting Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of the Boston Archdiocese: “Forgiveness does not mean that we do not realize the heinousness of the crime. But, in our hearts, when we are unable to forgive, we make ourselves a victim of our own hatred.”