The thing about terrorism is it has been shown time and time again to not work. Oh sure, there’s some mention of who took credit for whatever bombing it was this week here or abroad, and the perpetrator if they’re alive get put on trial or more likely get killed one way or another, but if the ultimate goal of terrorism is to change something through fear, it’s an ineffective method of making that happen. That’s not to say I’ve never thought of the occasional Molotov cocktail as a viable means of expression throughout history, but that’s an expression of frustration rather than trying to draw attention to a cause or enact a change in policy.
And so when I read, hear, watch, smell, touch and taste about the Boston Marathon bombing last week by Chechen brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19—so young!—the obvious unfortunate-ness aside, it seems to me they simply didn’t do their research. Hey guys, you’ve been living in the U.S. for a decade, fucking Google it. You’re gonna go bomb the Boston Marathon. Okay, fine. Some people will die, some people will lose arms, legs, etc., but all that’s going to ultimately happen is the community is going to pull together and unanimously declare you crazy, belittle your cause, simplify your position and vilify you until you—alive or dead—are nothing more than a specter of a historical footnote.
What’s the winning position? There isn’t one. You don’t get to win, and that goes for both sides of the equation. Sorry, but the people who get to win? They’ve already won. One has to wonder about the sequence of logic that makes someone think planting a bomb and some ball bearings and whatever other shrapnel-fodder by a finish line is going to make a populace stop and think about Chechnya’s position in the world? Again, these guys lived here for a decade. They went to high school here! How could you possibly think anyone’s ever going to pay attention to anything important, ever, ever, ever, after you’ve attended an American high school?
So while these Chechen boys may or may not have been the villainous scum of the earth—plenty of people we’ve called heroes have taken more lives than they did—they certainly were misguided. And other than the dead child, the tragedy is that nobody is going to learn anything from it on either side. Like Newtown, nothing will change. Everyone came together after the Newtown school shooting, put on their serious face and said, “Okay, now we need to change something,” and they couldn’t even pass background checks for gun buyers. What’s going to happen after Boston? Are we going to pick up a world history textbook and learn what it is these boys were trying to accomplish? Are we going to even Google the word “Chechnya”—which I’m sure we’d only get to “c-h-e-c-h” before we let autofill do the rest—so we can locate it on a map for the first time in our hyper-privileged American lives? Probably not.
Nothing changes, no one learns, and in a couple weeks, we’ll all be on to the next eye-catching disaster-of-the-moment, whatever hideous and human-nature-revealing form it might take when it comes. We are poor, temporary things. If anything could’ve changed by planting bombs, I’m sure it would’ve changed a long time ago. It’s not like this was the first.
Written in Amsterdam Centraal Station, The Netherlands, 04.22.13