Demolition Dad, Bomb Mom, and Babushka of Boom
There has been much speculation in the press about what idiosyncratic, one-in-a-million motives Tamerlan or Dzhokhar Tsarnaev might have had. For example, scientists at Boston University want to scan the late Tamerlan's brain to see if boxing had caused any of the brain damage associated with NFL players who commit suicides (see in Slate: Did Concussions Make Him Do It?)
But such analyses seems better suited for lone wolf killers. When you have two brothers, an ethnic analysis seems more plausible, especially when the ethnic backgrounds are famously volatile. My best guess is that the Tsarnaevs were brave young men aspiring to live up to the legends of their peoples, region, and religion by engaging in traditional modes of defiance in the manner of the lethal ethnic raiders / rebels celebrated by Tolstoy and other great Russian writers.
And, indeed, it turns out that the older generation of the Tsarnaev family just did a news conference, which provided an object lesson in the North Caucasus Muslim worldview, values, and interpersonal style that the younger generation took upon themselves to embody in an even more vigorous style:
Parents Say Boston Bombing Suspects Are Innocent
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
MAKHACHKALA, Russia — The parents of the two brothers accused in the bomb attack that killed three people and wounded more than 260 near the finish line of the Boston Marathon insisted on Thursday that their sons were innocent and had no connection to radical Islam.
In an outpouring of anguish and anger at a news conference here in the capital of Dagestan, the brothers’ father, Anzor Tsarnaev, and mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, also made accusations of a conspiracy in which the American authorities murdered their older son, Tamerlan, after seizing him.
... Despite this evidence, and after two days of questioning by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation here, Ms. Tsarnaeva said she would not accept that her sons were guilty.
“No I don’t — and I won’t,” she snapped at the news conference. “Never!”
During an emotional, nearly hourlong question-and-answer session, the parents addressed many of the questions that investigators and the American public have been asking in the anxious, unsettled days after the bombing, insisting their sons were not religious radicals or connected to any terrorist organization.
Their answers were often a mixture of denial and conspiracy theory.
In one dramatic moment, Ms. Tsarnaeva said that F.B.I. agents who came to the family’s home in Massachusetts to question Tamerlan about his religious views had asked her if she worried that he might commit an act of terrorism.
“Actually, they told me, don’t you think that Tamerlan is being a little bit, you know, like, extreme about religion?” she said. “Do you think that he would think about organizing some kind of, you know ——” She broke off and stumbled over her words. “Probably that was their meaning: terroristic, terrorism or whatever, aggression.”
“Do you see any aggression in Tamerlan?” she said, quoting the agents. “No, I did not. I did not. I really did not see any reason to worry.”
Ms. Tsarnaeva said that she was considering giving up her American citizenship.
That'll show us!
The parents spoke alternately in Russian and English, sometimes starting a sentence in one language and finishing in the other. Mr. Tsarnaev wore dark sunglasses, while Ms. Tsarnaeva wore a head scarf, which is customary among many women in this predominantly Muslim region.
They said that they regretted having lived in the United States, but that they wanted to travel back soon see Dzhokhar, though they expressed fear that they would not be allowed to see him until he was put in prison.
“Yes, I would prefer not to live in America now. Like, why did I even go there — why?” Ms. Tsarnaeva said, nearly breaking into tears. “I thought America was going to, like, protect us, our kids, it was going to be safe for any reason. But it happened the opposite. My kids — America took my kids away from me — only America. So why wouldn’t I regret? Why?”
“I don’t know,” she said, regaining her composure. “I am sure that my kids were not involved in anything.”
... Anzor Tsarnaev responded sharply to a reporter who asked why Tamerlan had felt that he did not fit in among Americans, once saying he did not have any friends.
“That’s not true,” Mr. Tsarnaev said. “He have a lot of friends. I know these friends.”
But he had three fewer American friends after that unfortunate incident in Waltham on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.
Ms. Tsarnaeva jumped in to say that Tamerlan had meant he did not have a best friend. “It does not mean that he did not fit in America,” she said.
The parents said the F.B.I. agents who questioned them had been most interested in Tamerlan’s six-month visit to Dagestan last year, which they said had been undertaken so that he could obtain a Russian passport. Although he was born in Russia, Tamerlan had traveled on a passport from Kyrgyzstan, where the family lived, that was about to expire. They said he needed a Russian passport because he did not have American citizenship.
Ms. Tsarnaeva reacted furiously to a questioner who said Dzhokhar had told officials the brothers were motivated by extremist Islam. “I’ll answer,” she said. “They told me yesterday that he was not questioned yet,” she said of her son’s lawyers. “Where does this information come from? Where does this information come from?”
“Where does this information come from?” she shouted again.