I was sitting on a bench by a small pond. It was a chilly spring day, unseasonably so for a New England April, but sunny. There were daffodils and ducks, and a young mother with her fearless toddler, who insisted on throwing small pebbles at the ducks nearby.
I sat and watched everything around me and every third person who walked by looked exactly like a young man who I had never met and who was at that moment apparently hiding out in a boat in someone's back yard, slowly bleeding to death.
No less than 200 law enforcement officials were poised nearby, waiting for him to emerge. Or die. The orders were to take him alive even though he had killed an eight-year-old boy and blown off the legs and fingers of many others. They had been hunting him for nearly a full day, and like the rest of America I watched while they scoured Watertown, MA for someone they described as “Violent and extremely dangerous”.
Then they put his pictures up and my heart stopped, because I knew him. I knew him, not personally, and I had never met him, but I knew him because he looked like he could have been my son, and he looked like almost every swarthy, lanky young man who walked by me as I sat next to the pond.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction to kill and injure American citizens. He and his older brother dropped two bombs in two locations during the 117th Boston Marathon. And then the manhunt for the younger Tsarnaev ensued. The shaggy hair, the wisp of a beard, arched eyebrows and sloe eyes of the Caucasus mountain people reminded me so much of my own child, my heart sank every time they flashed the most wanted person's photo on the TV screen. DEAD! It yelled under his brother's image, AT LARGE under Dzhokhar's.
I expressed to my son's father that I was worried our child would be hassled at school as a result of the resemblance. We live in a predominantly white, conservative town and he has been hassled in the past. Once two boys asked my son if he was happy that the twin towers came down. The school did very little to address this, and I did not raise a stink. I should have. After the events of April 15th at the marathon, and now with the arrest of Tsarnaev, I have decided that should anyone say a word to my child I will raise the necessary objections. That is my duty and obligation as an American. After all we are told to immediately report unsavory activity.
The sad truth is this latest act of terrorism will once again render the Muslims of this country as objects of rancour and more frighteningly, victims of retribution. Incidents have already been reported—a Bangladeshi man was beaten in the Bronx, New York for being a “dirty Arab”. A father and his hijabi daughter were thrown out of an Apple store on Staten Island, NY—after being detained by store personnel.
I am angry and bone weary of so called “Muslims” committing murder in the name of Islam, and using a rich, complex religion to carry out some twisted agenda that has more to do with feelings of inadequacy and deep seated insecurity than God. Well actually, God was nowhere in their hearts, when the two brothers made the chilling decision to kill people. That is the immediate result, death, but there are also the injured whose lives and bodies have been altered forever, and the other victims. Muslims the world over, but especially in the US who will pay for the fall out of these actions —possibly with their own lives. The Constitution of this country might once again be flouted as it was in the aftermath of 9/11, to ensure that there are no more acts of terrorism on American soil and we will be profiled even more.
I want to hate him, the young man with a boy's face and the unkempt hair, who by all accounts, was a normal American teenager, with friends, a Twitter account and dreams. But I can't seem to, because the tragedy of his choices is so stark, and because his face reminds me of my kid and countless others, and because hating him won't bring back eight-year-old Martin Richard or protect the true Muslims who will now be punished for what he did.