Politics

04.19.13

A Reality Too Complex

After dozing off early I happened to wake up at exactly 12:45. My wife had CNN on and was already watching. We have family in Watertown, about a mile-and-a-half from where it all went down. I've been to that forlorn Watertown Mall several times and took my daughter to play once in the park across the street. We finally called our people at 4 am. They're fine, but pretty...amazed.

It's going to take a while to make sense of this one. The Caucasus may be the one region in the world that Americans know the least about. Literally the least. I include myself. I know some history of the SSRs during the Soviet period, or a little before--from Stalin's youth up throug the war, but that's about the extent of my knowledge, beyond the things that average informed people know about the Chechen-Russian conflict. But I can't tell you if it's important whether they're really Chechen or Dagestani. So maybe this provides us all a good chance to educate ourselves. Not holding my breath on that one, but still.

If you're looking for people who know something, I'm told the person to follow on Twitter is Joshua Foust, who writes for The Atlantic on Afghanistan but whose expertise extends to the Caucasus. He's at @joshuafoust.

I'm sure you've read many of the details I have. Dzokhar Tsarnaev was a happy and friendly person. Tamerlan couldn't find a single American friend. (Even these names--echoes of tsarist Russia and of Tamerlane the conqueror.) Dzokhar ran his brother's dead body over while escaping. Their father says Dzokhar was "a true angel." An uncle apparently said of Tamerlan that he was a "loser" who "deserved" to die.

They're Muslim. They're white. Are they political? Was this political? Some signs yes, some signs no. If it was political, were they foreign terrorists or domestic (they've apparently lived here a long time)? If political, do they consider themselves, or are they in fact, part of some worldwide movement, or were they acting entirely alone, trying to advance some cause they've set back years?

How did they get into the country? Will there be ramifications for the immigration debate? There shouldn't be, since they were kids, but you never know in this town. How did they get their guns? Will there be ramifications there?

And there's the gripping fact of what surely has to be the biggest manhunt and lockdown in American history. Surely it can't take long for thousands of cops to find this kid. We should all hope they find him alive so we can get some answers to some of these questions. In the meantime, every pre-fixed idea on left and right is laid waste here. Life is surprising.