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Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev is buried in my neighborhood

So the big news around here last Friday was that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was being buried in my county. The police department was actually forced to make a statement along the lines of, “Yes, we know what’s happening. Stop calling us. Oh, and 911 is for emergencies.”

I’m not sure what all those people calling 911 were thinking, why they thought it was an emergency or what they thought the police were supposed to do about it.

Though I hate to admit it, my own knee-jerk reaction to the information, while hardly volatile, was  less than hospitable. I thought, “Why here? He doesn’t belong here. Why did they bring him to where I live?”

I just didn’t like it.


I still have that reaction on the surface of my heart, but deeper than that is the understanding that people are not one-dimensional.  There is more to us than our worst deeds.

God, for my own sake, I hope so.

And it’s easier than you might think to become something different from what you started out as. It’s easier than you think to get wrong ideas in your head, to become immersed in whatever crazy thing you believe, and to find yourself acting on that wrong thinking in terrible, possibly irreversible ways.

But I was saddened by the ugliness and just venom from some of the comments I read on-line, ranging from a simple “this is a disgrace” to “throw him in the sewer” to “Massachusetts  doesn’t want this trash rotting in their soil, so why should we have to take him?”

What he did was horrendous. But I have to wonder, is there an act so vile and repugnant that it completely renders the person irredeemable?

And at what point does it then become okay to deny that person their humanity?

Because if that line exists, I believe there are so many more people who don’t belong in our communities, much less our graveyards. People you’ll never hear about, who carry out their atrocities in quiet and nearly invisible ways.


He’s here because no place else would have him.

The Christian woman who found the cemetery said, “Jesus tells us ‘love your enemies’, not to hate them even after they are dead.”

The Muslim organization that runs the cemetery released a statement that they condemn his actions but believe burying him was their duty. “To God belongs the soul, and He has the final judgment.”

There is a part of me that feels a bit contaminated when I think of this man being buried here. As irrational and unkind as that is.

And even though I’ve carried out atrocities of my own.

But at the same time, I’m glad he was taken in. I’m glad there were people with enough compassion and love and unclouded thinking to do what was morally and ethically right.

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’m glad, too, Michelle, and I’m betting that in time, your feelings will change. I have read so many stories of how people were stretched by truly awful circumstances to become what was in their destiny but which they never could have predicted. Wow…can you say “run-on sentence?! And so, perhaps we are all going to be stretched by this, to love and forgive, yes, even this much. I guess, now that I think about it, it is the flip side of the same coin you so wisely describe in this beautiful post.

    May 13, 2013
    • Yeah, it will all pass out of our notice before too long. I am ashamed of any negative feelings I have, because I believe that giving his body a proper burial is the right thing to do. But sometimes what you believe and what you actually feel don’t quite meet up with each other. But I do choose to take it as a learning about myself and stretching exercise, as you say!

      May 13, 2013
  2. Michelle,

    There exists a side of each of us that has committed all atrocities…..over and over and over again. Forgetting this is easy, remembering isn’t for everyone, just seekers and lunatics 🙂


    May 13, 2013
    • I hope I fall in the seeker category.

      Sometimes I do think how freeing it would be to be dumb (though not a lunatic). That sounds harsh, but what I mean is I am fully aware that I am not particularly smart. But I’m smart enough to know I’m not that smart. I have enough grey matter to understand things, to be aware of my shortcomings and recognize my own atrocities. Which can be tough.

      I would by no means change who I am, and I would choose my limited powers of reason over none at all every day of the week. But some days I wouldn’t mind the freedom of not knowing – of not understanding even what little I do of myself and the world. Sometimes I wouldn’t mind being the kind of person who just doesn’t have enough brain power to “get it”, who is blissfully ignorant.

      May 13, 2013
      • Seeker,

        Might growing beyond accepting “smart enough to know I’m not smart” include a converse – I’m stupid enough to realize I’m not stupid?

        It works if you are stupid enough to try it:)

        I don’t really think you have a terrible yearning for blissful ignorance……maybe just everyday old bliss. These complexities that exist in the world and all the atrocities that result are kinda like the world taking its stupidity out for a spin, it will smarten up eventually.

        Whatever you do, don’t start looking for that delightfully unrestrained by reason – sensibility that lunatics and children wobble around with……that would be undignified.

        May 14, 2013
        • Haha, okay. And you’re right, I’d rather know than not know.

          May 14, 2013
  3. Michelle, I am so glad I “know” someone where the guy was buried. Rather, I am happy to see someone who lives in the area respond to the news both acknowledging the angry and uneasiness while also realizing the fact that he was a human being – he is dead – he can do no more harm – etc. Did people have the same reaction to the boys that took over Columbine HS, mastermind the OK City bombing, etc?
    Honestly, I don’t feel as though your community/county is tainted. I feel your community/county did what was right and respectful, even if the man in question chose not to do what was right and respectful. The good have to lead by example. Shunning him would only strengthen the tension.

    May 13, 2013
    • That’s a good question, and someone else on the comment feed I was reading pointed out that those killers are buried in their home towns, which in many cases is the same place where their crimes were committed. One of the guys he mentioned is up the road from us in Alexandria, VA. A big part of the issue in people’s minds is that he was “not an American”, he hated America, and they felt he should be sent back to Russia. But the thing is, he was an American citizen.

      For me, it’s more a feeling of unease, like when you get something on your skin that you continue to “feel” no matter how many times you wash. I’m not happy with my reaction, but I’m being honest. At the same time, I’m truly ashamed to read our mayor’s words, that the county has been forever “tainted” by this association, and that if it were at all possible, he’d reverse the burial. I certainly don’t feel that way, and I do feel that everyone deserves to be treated properly, no matter what they may have done.

      May 13, 2013
      • I don’t think you should feel badly for your initial (and perhaps still momentary) reaction/feelings. What you should focus on (in my opinion) is the fact that you deliberated and continue to deliberate about it, and you don’t just close your mind and call it done. You are going through a series of emotions, and you are conscious of the feelings, and you are questioning the feelings. Personally, I think that is a respectful way to handle the tough things in life. Deliberate and question.

        May 14, 2013
        • That is true and good advice, Lenore 🙂

          May 14, 2013
  4. I love your honesty. I live in the city where JFK was assassinated and it has forever left its mark here. I don’t think Dallas will ever truly recover from that horrible day, but it has learned to move on. The association will always be there, a reminder of the senselessness of murder. Your feelings are completely understandable. Like you, however, I think everyone deserves a proper burial. Despite his horrible actions he was someone’s son/husband/father/brother. All we can do is forgive and move on.

    May 14, 2013
    • I was thinking about that on Mother’s Day, how he was someone’s son – still is. And he has a wife and child. There are people who love him out there and their grief is just as real. All of it is sad, the whole thing, including however he came to feel the way he did. It’s sad that happened to him.

      A big part of all of this is that we have to be diligent that the same kinds of thoughts and emotions don’t carry us away. When people openly spout some of the truly nasty things that they say, I have to wonder what is keeping them from acting out on those feelings? It’s just a tiny little step from thought to action. And once you make the first move, any taboo or wrongness about what you are doing immediately starts to fade. And then slowly, step by step, you go from simply feeling anger to being someone who is comfortable acting out their anger in terrible, terrible ways.

      The organization that owns the cemetery said in their statement that “we must all take a more positive, proactive approach with our children. We need to be in communication with them and know what they are exposed to on the Internet. As fathers and mothers, we must protect our children before they become poisoned by hatred.” And I think we have to protect ourselves too, and keep ourselves in check and be honest with ourselves.

      May 14, 2013
  5. MawMaw #

    I wish that I could have the objectivity that should have come with my advanced age, but I don’t. I understand that it is just a body, but it is also a symbol of the hatred the radical Muslims have for America and her citizens. He and his beliefs do not deserve the attention that has been generated – even to where the body is buried. I wish I could be one of those people who could say “I forgive” his misguided and deadly actions. I don’t know that there was any chance for redemption for him, if so, that possibility passed when he died as a result of the acts of terrorism he committed, and was obviously prepared to die for. While I do have pity and compassion for his child, don’t forget he had no compassion or pit for the people he killed who also had families who loved them. In my opinion, lost the right for a respected burial place where he could be mourned by family and friends.

    We have long been a nation who condemned the cowardly acts of violence against innocent people. Why is it considered wrong to not want the person who committed this violent act against innocent people to be buried in our neighborhood? In my mind, it is somewhat akin to being forced to let a pedophile live peacefully around the corner.

    I know that this sounds harsh, and in our, ‘forgive all’ after death mentality, is not considered acceptable or appropriate to say. I feel this way about the Sandy Hook killer or the Columbine killers. Do they really deserve to “rest in peace?” Is it possible for them to “rest in peace”?

    May 15, 2013
    • I guess that was my question, if we can do something so bad that we lose our “rights”. Certainly having jail (temporary loss) and up to the death penalty answers that question, but I meant really deeper than law. You’re saying, “yes, we can lose those human rights”, and I can’t fault you for feeling that way. I’m glad you don’t differentiate between him and other killers.

      I can understand how people would feel that the person gave up their own rights, rather than we took them away. And that’s a good point, that they CHOSE to do what they did, and they didn’t really care about the consequences.

      I do think as a society and government, we have to “do the right thing”, which in this case is bury him. But I don’t think we have to like it.

      May 15, 2013
  6. Your reaction is completely natural. But it is so refreshing to see that you have the mental maturity to analyze your thoughts and realize that they might not be the best. And you’re absolutely right. People should not be saying bad things about him. I mean…he’s already dead. What he DID was terrible, but do I know him personally? No. So I cannot say that he is a horrible person. Like you said, sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the wrong thing. You are a wonderful writer, by the way!

    May 26, 2013
    • I think so mostly say ugly things about people because of ourselves more than because of them. We gossip because it makes us feel better about who we are. We use hate language about or against guys like this because we’re scared. Or confused or anguished. We hate what they did, but we turn what they did into who they are. Which is rarely completely accurate. The whole thing is sad and terrible though, all around.

      Also, thank you very much for the wonderful compliment 🙂 That was very nice of you to say!

      May 27, 2013

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