According to the BBC, there’s a controversy brewing in Boston about the burial of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. People are protesting outside the funeral home that holds his body, and his family is struggling to find a cemetery that will allow his burial.
Like every American, I’m angered and sickened by the terrorist actions of the Tsarnaev brothers, and I can understand the impulse to deny a final resting place on American soil to someone who cruelly and intentionally killed and injured innocents . . . but I say let Tsarnaev be buried. A controversy about his remains is just a distraction from the real issues raised by the Tsarnaev brothers and the Boston Marathon bombing — issues like whether they should have been permitted to come to America in the first place, how they came to be radicalized and whether there are steps that can prevent others from becoming similarly radicalized, why Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friends allegedly would try to cover up for someone who committed a terrorist act, and whether the FBI and other authorities missed warning signs that should have alerted them to the dangers posed by the Tsarnaev brothers. Picketing some unfortunate funeral home that holds Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s remains isn’t going to help answer any of those questions.
I say, plant Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s corpse in the corner of some remote cemetery and be done with it. Ignore this wretched excuse for a human being and let his headstone crumble into dust. Forget about his body, focus on his actions, and figure out what we can do to keep them from ever happening again.
The Boston bombings came at an inconvenient time for the politicos who are working on an immigration reform bill — but that might be a good thing.
In our catch-phrase, talking-point era, the immigration issue has been reduced to mantras like “securing our borders” and fuzzy video images of people scaling flimsy walls in desert landscapes. Of course, immigration involves a much more complex, multi-faceted set of concepts and questions. We are a land of immigrants, built in large part through the hard work and aspirations of those who came to our shores in search of freedom. We need immigrants to perform certain jobs in our economy, and we want immigrants who will be doctors and entrepreneurs. We feel a more obligation to offer asylum to those seeking to escape persecution in their native lands. Millions of people now working in America came here illegally; what are we realistically to do about them?
The Tsarnaev brothers accused of perpetrating the Boston bombings cast a different perspective on the immigration debate. They didn’t come here smuggled in the hold of a ship or sneaking across the border in the dead of night. “Securing our borders” through towering walls or armed forces in the southwest wouldn’t have stopped their arrival. And what happened after they got here? News reports indicate that various members of the Tsarnaev family received government assistance. It’s not clear that the Tsarnaev brothers ever held a permanent job. If they had had to find gainful employment, and didn’t have hours of free time to surf the internet for hateful messages and theories, would they have descended into apparent jihadist beliefs? Tamerlan Tsarnaev eventually was targeted as a potential radical in comments from a foreign government, investigated by the FBI, and put on a CIA watchlist. Should something more have been done about him?
The Tsarnaevs shouldn’t define the immigration debate, of course, but neither should we ignore lessons we might learn from them. As immigration reform is debated in Congress, it’s entirely legitimate to ask whether our experience with the Tsarnaevs should cause us to revisit how we decide to allow people to come to America, what we should do, if anything, to monitor them after they arrive, and whether we should be able to take action if their conduct after their arrival indicates that they aren’t making positive contributions to society.
If you go on Facebook on any given day, you may see one posted by a Facebook friend. It’s usually a picture with text, often capitalized and superimposed over the photo. It might tell a tragic or moving story, or quote statistics about the handgun use, the abuse of animals, or another topic in the national conversation. It then asks you to repost, or like the post, or take some other action.
How many of the stories are real? How many of the statistics are accurate?
I’ve wondered about it and thought about it again when I read about Dzhokar Tsarnaev’s tweeting activities in the days after the Boston bombing. Tsarnaev tweeted about a post of a picture of a man huddled over a prone woman that said the man was going to propose to the woman and instead found her dead. Tsarnaev tweeted “fake story,” and the news article reports that the claim wasn’t true.
Why would anyone feel the need to heighten the horrific nature of the Boston bombing by concocting a fake story about the people injured in the blast? Why would anyone make up phony statistics about some political issue? How many people are misled by such postings, and how much of the national conversation has been misdirected as a result of the false information?
I hope there aren’t many people who accept these kinds of Facebook posts at face value, without applying some skepticism and fact-checking. My grandmother used to say “believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.” That’s a good rule of thumb when it comes to Facebook information.