This undated photo provided by the vkontakte website shows Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. (

I live in Newton, Mass. and Friday’s lockdown and its aftermath brought out my motherly instincts in a surprising way.

The day started with what I think is a pretty typical maternal response to hearing at 6:30 a.m. that a terrorist is on the loose, your town is locked down, you must bolt all your doors and stay away from your windows. I checked on my kids, locked the house and set about wondering how I was going to rearrange my schedule and keep the kids from freaking out.

I have a son, and regardless of what he’d done, it would kill me to think of him terrified, bleeding, vulnerable and at the end of any promise in his life.

All in all, I’m guessing my experience was similar to most parents in Newton, Belmont or Cambridge.

Until the ban lifted and the police cornered 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev bleeding in a boat in someone’s backyard.

Friends and their kids came over to grill a late dinner with us once the ban was lifted, and news streamed in as we talked about the week’s events. We talked about the cold-blooded atrocities the suspects had committed, our pride in the city, and what was likely to happen to Dzhokhar. We wanted justice. But to my surprise, I felt something different, too.

I was worried about him.

The news reports said there was blood around the boat and that he had almost certainly suffered gunshot wounds from the shoot-out the night before. It was likely he’d been there for quite a long time, hiding without food or water for 12 to 18 hours. He was likely feeling utterly trapped and alone — with helicopters overhead revealing thermal pictures of his body and law enforcement from many different agencies surrounding the house.

Please, don’t get me wrong. What the Tsarnaev brothers are alleged to have done is nothing short of horrific, and I reserve the bulk of my concern and prayers for their victims, where it belongs. I was relieved they had captured Dzhokhar and I am grateful that he will now be tried in a court of law. But I have a son, and regardless of what he’d done, it would kill me to think of him terrified, bleeding, vulnerable and at the end of any promise in his life. The mother in me felt that for someone else’s son too, even knowing that he is believed to have killed or harmed countless other mothers’ sons himself.

ATF and FBI agents check suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for explosives and also give him medical attention after he was apprehended in Watertown, Mass. on Friday, April 19, 2013. (AP)

ATF and FBI agents check suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for explosives and also give him medical attention after he was apprehended in Watertown, Mass. on Friday, April 19, 2013. (AP)

I didn’t mention my feelings that night. No one on the news was talking about him that way, and we weren’t at the dinner table, either. I went to sleep thinking of him, with less anger and more worry than I expected. Despite the fact that he had killed many others, I was relieved that they got him out of the boat without killing him.

The next morning, I played tennis with three female friends. All mothers. One had been in the grandstands with her 19-year-old daughter and her husband less than a quarter of a mile from the finish line when the explosions happened. She was stolid, though visibly traumatized, and taking care of her daughter’s trauma as well as anyone can.

I convinced myself it was all his brother’s doing and influence. That he followed along and didn’t really understand what he was doing. Maybe it’s just too much to fathom that he did know what he was doing.

At a break in our game, the fourth woman in our group confessed to us. “I kind of felt bad for him last night,” she said.

I admitted, “I did, too.” The other two players didn’t judge us, but they didn’t agree with us, either. I don’t blame them.

I think I formed a story about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Friday. I convinced myself it was all his brother’s doing and influence. That he followed along and didn’t really understand what he was doing. Maybe it’s just too much to fathom that he did know what he was doing.

When I told a male friend over lunch earlier this week that I felt a little motherly worry for the young man, he said, “I think to place a bomb like that, around kids, blow people up and then go back to your dorm room and back to school for two days… that’s just crazy.”

I felt a chill. He’s right. How can I be worried about someone like that?

But I admit, just the littlest bit, I still am.

Tags: Boston, Boston Marathon Bombings, Family, Security

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Deb Carroll

    I so agree, I felt the very same, conflicted, things. Still do.

  • Tony Grima

    I agree, except I am not a parent. I don’t think one needs to be a parent to feel compassion even for the perpetrators of the most horrific crimes.

  • Jackie F

    Stockholm Syndrome. Battered Women’s Syndrome. Feeling sympathy toward someone committing a crime against you is not uncommon at all. But nor is it a healthy, rational response. The photos the media is choosing to run can also create a response. I have seen photos on the news of his childhood for some reason. Know who else was once a child? Every murderer, ever. He is not a child. He is a competent adult fully responsible for his own actions. And he would gladly have killed you and your children that day. Or today. Or tomorrow. I think those feelings are misguided, if understandable.

    • rushthis

      You don’t know that he would have “gladly” killed you and your children that day. His brother, sure, but this young man was led from an early age, and led in the wrong direction. BUT…there needs to be a limit to our sympathy.

      • BozToz

        You know, at one point his brother was a sweet kid as well. But nobody seems to be feeling motherly empathy towards him.

        • Barry Kort

          There appears to be a recurring theme here. Most young people start out as reasonably social and well-adjusted members of the culture they are born into.

          And then, some (hopefully small) fraction of them become progressively more disaffected with their culture.

          And some who become disaffected become so alienated that they engage in some kind of vengeful or retributive act, lashing out and hurting the “tribe” that “dissed” them.

          How do people justify such acts of vengeance or retribution? Evidently we tell ourselves narratives that justify our individual or collective acts of violence against the “other.”

          I would love to apprehend a coherent theory of such perplexing narratives.

          Perhaps a clue can be found in rap music.

    • Tony Grima

      Jackie, everything you say is true, except that feeling compassion for someone is not Stockholm Syndrome, nor is it unhealthy or irrational. It’s just another response on the long spectrum of responses different people are bound to feel. It’s also not the ONLY response I have – I, too, feel the anger, rage, fear, grief, and much more. And of course the victims of the crime and the community at large elicit more of my concern.

    • Roger Bencivenga

      Stockholm syndrome, or capture–bonding, is a psychological phenomenon in whereby hostages express empathy, sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors–sometimes to the point of defending them. That is NOT what is being fleshed out here. The operative phrase in the definition is “being held captive.” Any other attempt at such an assignation is dime-store psychology at it’s worst.

      • Jackie F

        Were we not held captive? I believe several towns were locked down. But granted, it’s a stretch of the clinical definition. I believe it’s the same phenomenon. Perhaps if he looked more like John Wayne Gacey and less like Justin Beiber there would not be such a conflict.
        Note that no one seems to be expressing sympathy toward the older brother.

        • Mokita Syzygy

          Residents of Watertown were, in a sense, held captive (in their own homes), during the lock-down.

          And yet most of those residents maintained a positive emotional attitude toward the authorities, rather than one of resentment.

          There is a fine line between an act of protection and an act of oppression. Just ask any teenager how they feel about their parents’ levels of guidance and supervisory oversight.

  • Heather

    I felt exactly the same way, especially in response to that photo. Where I know I should see a terrorist, I see a kid. Someone’s son.

    • Barry Kort

      When I was growing up, there was a popular cartoon about a terrifying kid called “Dennis the Menace.” Today we have “Calvin and Hobbes.”

      At what point would we declare Dennis or Calvin to be so obnoxious, intolerable, and incorrigible that we would demonize and criminalize him?

  • Roger Bencivenga

    How can you not wonder and not feel conflicted? He is someone’s son, someone’s grandson. I can’t help but think I’d feel differently if someone I know were subject to his alleged atrocities, but, thankfully, I don’t have to. Perhaps this is what we call a reasonable objective viewpoint? I do feel that he should get his due, and that does not include the death penalty. “Thou shalt not kill” means no killing. Period. Besides, it’s probably worse to be caged up for the rest of his life if he’s found guilty.

    • SEMmassachusetts

      By all accounts, the younger brother was a very sweet guy in high school. I have wondered if he could be the sort of person to talk to other troubled muslims or teenagers, and convince them to take a different path. … Still, what a waste of a life. Of many lives.

      • Barry Kort

        If Jahar survives his coming ordeal with our mean-spirited justice system, he could conceivably become a valuable contributor to healing the troubling rift between the American mainstream and our newest disaffected minority.

      • Susie Trevino


  • Kelly G.

    I, too, found myself feeling worried and sad for him on Friday. I’m relieved to hear I wasn’t alone. I believe he should be held fully accountable for his actions but, damn, he’s a KID. This entire tragedy, from start to finish, is heartbreaking.

    • Bob Rand

      So sad that he is a “KID”. Any thoughts on the “workplace violence” at Ft. Hood or the You Tube video causing the massacre in Benghazi?

      • Anne

        Below you say ” I feel nothing but extreme hate for this guy.” Hatred is what causes many people to commit acts of violence. It is easy to hate. And hatred begets hatred. It can be extremely difficult to have compassion. Compassion is an acknowledgement that we are all human, and there but for the grace of God, or the luck of the draw, go we.

        • Barry Kort

          Hate is a mask for fear. If someone is in a state of fear, I can usually understand that, and have compassion for them.

          But if someone says they are in a state of hate, I have no compassion for them, because, as near as I can tell, hate is not the name of an emotion. It’s a feature of a narrative in which the true (but unspoken) underlying emotion is some variety of fear.

          It might be Fear of Annihilation, for example. And it would be quite easy for me to have compassion for someone who is in the grip of Fear of Annihilation, as that also happens to be my own most deep-seated fear, one that I inherited wordlessly from my parents’ generation.

          • Bob Rand

            I’m not fearful of showing real emotion Barry. It’s time for WBUR to spend some time on real stories with real emotion. Not some junk written by a trust-funded, tennis playing, CEO who writes about poverty.

          • Barry Kort

            Bob, what’s the name of your affective emotional state with respect to Jahar Tsarnaev’s role in this baffleplexing story?

            Also, could you list a few candidates for the kind of “real stories” you have in mind? And for those stories, could you spell out the names of the relevant emotions you would find of interest with respect to those candidate stories?

          • Bob Rand

            Barry, his role? He set off explosives in a crowd, killing people and maiming hundreds of strangers for life. I show my compassion for him because he and live live in a society that has created a justice system. If I lived in a less compassionate time I would have loved to witness this guy caught by a livid crowd, wrapped in barbed wire, had gasoline poured over him and set afire.

          • Barry Kort

            Let me rephrase the question, Bob.

            What is the name of your affective emotional state with respect to Jahar Tsarnaev’s role in this baffleplexing story?

            I apprehend that, had you been alive in barbaric times, a few millenia ago, you might have been in a state of rage. But I am now asking what your emotional state is in this day and age, in 2013, equipped with your Ayn Rand style of personal philosophy.

          • Bob Rand

            I do not live in an ivory tower environment as you apparently do Barry. I live in a real world where real emotions are allowed to be expressed. Select a piece of music? Are you kidding me?

          • Barry Kort

            Bob, I am inviting you to reveal to me the name of your emotional state, so that I can apprehend what it is. Is there some reason you are declining to disclose it?

            In the e-mail notification of your response above, the text reads:

            I’m referring to an emotion similar to what I felt when a young kid was sent home from school because he fashioned a pop tart into the shape of …

            But when I come here, I find the text of your response has been edited to remove any hint of what emotional state you were about to describe.

            This leaves me having to guess that the “young kid” fashioned a pop tart into the shape of something considered inappropriate, and was therefore sent home. But since I don’t know if the “young kid” was a friend or someone you didn’t like, I’m still left in the dark as to whether you were in a state of chagrin or a state of glee.

          • Bob Rand

            Here are a few “Real Stories” misplayed or ignored by tax supported NPR and WBUR: Mis-used First Amendment right used blamed for the Benghazi massacre, Fast and Furious, the Fed printing money from thin air, Monsanto, the Gosnell trial until finally mentioned after five weeks of silence.

            Too deep? How about Obama’s Connecticut social security number, high black unemployment, furloughing air contollers, the secret service shutting down the white house tours.

          • Barry Kort

            Oh, you mean the growing number of government policies and practices which are so dysfunctional they are on the verge of epic malfunction?

            If that’s what you mean, I’d love to see Tom Ashbrook take a hard look at that trending pattern.

          • Jen Gordon

            Bob, I think you can make your point without making uninformed assumptions about the author’s background. I’ve known Tiziana for years and the reality couldn’t be further from your characterization. I have no problem with your expressing a different opinion about the content of her piece, but focus your criticism on the content not the author.

        • Bob Rand

          I am as versed in “The Course in Miracles” as you. But there is also a time to vent real emotion.

          • Barry Kort

            Again, what otherwise unnamed real emotion are you referring to here? Rage? Or something other than rage?

          • Bob Rand

            I’m referring to an emotion similar to what I felt when a young kid was sent home from school because he fashioned a pop tart into the shape of a gun. Meaningless crap.

    • Greg Cronin

      Kelly, you’re as a smart as a bag of rocks

    • Susie Trevino


  • Scientist4Obama

    I felt the same way. I felt very sorry for the kid. He is as much a victim as everyone else. He was brainwashed and followed a brother who took the role of a father in his life. I was relieved when he was caught alive. I cried. Justice should be done for all the victims. But I hope we all find in our hearts forgiveness for this child.

    • Bob Rand

      It was his brother’s fault?

      • Barry Kort

        Whose fault is that human society is replete with competing narratives, roughly half of which have to power to recruit their adherents in seemingly justified acts of violence?

    • Expanded_Consciousness

      You want him to do his time and be let out of jail? You’d hire him and invite him over to play cards? He was brainwashed, but not his brother? Everyone is brainwashed! Let’s cry for everyone. I think you are brainwashed by indiscriminate compassion and by sappy Hollywood stories.

      • Barry Kort

        Perhaps it’s time for some gifted American (like Tod Machover) to craft an illuminating opera that rinses the toxins out of our beleagured brains.

    • Jackie F

      Actually, he is literally not just as much of a victim as everyone else since he has all of his limbs and is alive today. And he is not a child. He’s a grown man.

      • Barry Kort

        It takes about forty years to become a fully educated adult.

        • Greg Cronin

          Barry, you are a moron times 10!

    • BozToz

      You have no idea whether he was brainwashed. At 19 you have enough rational thinking that you can decide what you believe in. And at 19 you are not a child.

      • Barry Kort

        At age 19, I barely knew what to believe. And then I spent the next half a century of my career endeavoring to construct reliable theories that passed muster as evidence-driven scientific models worthy of belief.

  • Jackie Heger

    Wow…thank you for this. I thought I was the only one. I just felt a profound sadness for him, and yet part of me for lack of a better word, felt stupid, even guilty for feeling this way. Please understand I cannot even begin to wrap my head around the pain that these two young men caused the victims and their families….I don’t have words to even come close to describing how my heart aches for them…and yet still this sadness for the 19 year old boy who helped cause it. I pray for understanding, for peace.

    • Brenda Sheridan

      You are not the only one. And maybe my telling you not to feel stupid or guilty will help me to do the same. Peace.

    • Greg Cronin

      Gee jackie, please keep in my mind they would have laughed and smirked at the mangled bodies of your children!

      • Mokita Syzygy

        Projection is an unbecoming practice.

    • Susie Trevino


  • Steven Derrick Wilber

    I’m not a parent, but I am a teacher, and like many who have commented here, I felt empathy for both parties. Certainly more for the victims and those affected by the attack (I live just 4 blocks away from the bombing), but I fear what could turn apparently ‘normal’ youth into terrorists in my own city.

    • Greg Cronin

      Too bad it wasn’t you they killed that day Steven. As they would stand over your mangled body smirking in delight!

      • Mokita Syzygy

        Wishing death on another person is an unbecoming practice.

  • Kendra Vaughan Hovey

    Amen!! Thank you so much fir voicing this. I have struggled with my concerns for him, too, and have kept him in my prayers. My son is 18 and all I can think is: He’s too young to fully understand at that age what’s really going on. I’m saddened his patents have not come to support him.

    • SEMmassachusetts

      I so agree with you. I’ve been wondering for several days now: where are the parents??? Are they stuck in Russia and unable to fly here? Or don’t they care enough? At a time when the one son needs them most, the parents are thousands of miles away. Why did they move back to Russia when three children live in the US? So strange. If they had been here interacting with their children, maybe the whole situation would have been averted.

    • Barry Kort

      My understanding is that both of his parents are making plans to come to the US to stand with their son.

      • Barry Kort

        And now we learn that neither of them will travel to the US after all.

    • BozToz

      When I was 18 my mother thought I didn’t understand enough things. When I was 25 she thought I didn’t understand enough things. And now that I’m 50 she still thinks I don’t understand enough things. The “next” generation, no matter what it’s age, never seems to know enough for the previous one…

      • Barry Kort

        I wonder if your mother doesn’t understand how it comes to pass that none of us seems to understand much of anything.

        My working hypothesis is that we are not doing enough research and education to make the kind of progress your mother dreams of.

        • BozToz

          You miss the point, Barry. The point is that the older generation has a tendency to see the younger generation as unready, untested, and unable to exist on their own and make their own choices. Everybody learns, everybody decides. It’s infantilizing to say in the original post (my son is) “… too young to fully understand at that age what’s really going on.” That may be true the son, but it’s not appropriate to make it a blanket statement about all 19 year olds.

  • Rick Bettencourt

    Our concern for him, regardless of the atrocities committed, is just one of the many things that makes Americans so beautiful.

    • Bob Rand


  • LisaS

    Thank you for this. The more I learn about this young man, the more I feel the depth of this tragedy, from every perspective. Justice does not require an absence of compassion.

    • Bob Rand

      Justice does require truth however. These brothers were radical muslim extremists no different than those at Ft. Hood and Benghazi.

      • ironymobile

        The fact that you’re putting Ft. Hood & Benghazi together, as if they were the same sort of event, is but one clue that you’re speaking in relatively meaningless generalities. By definition, acts committed by American citizens on US soil are different from acts committed by foreigners against US representatives abroad. If you or anyone else would like to learn a bit more about what “home-grown” terrorists have in common, this LA Times article is a good place to start.

        As one of the experts cited notes of Americans who have planned or executed “Jihadist-inspired plots,” “They typically show signs of profound alienation. ‘Religious belief does not appear to be the key personal factor,’ Jenkins said. Instead, the participants have been motivated by ‘grievance, sense of anger, desire for revenge, feelings of humiliation, desire to demonstrate manhood, participation in an epic struggle, thirst for glory. Jihadist ideology is a conveyor for individual discontent. Terrorism is a solution to an unsatisfactory life,’ he added.”

        If we don’t understand the problem, which is complex, we have little hope of addressing it. (Getting ahead of ourselves without sufficient information is what got us into a decade-long war in Iraq, for example.) So, instead of assuming that the truth is simple and you have a grasp of it, maybe it’d be better to ask a few more questions and hold off on the conclusions.

        • Bob Rand

          Stop with the legalistic junk. And the moralizing politically correct jargon. Benghazi was sold by Obama as simply a case of a mis-used First Amendment right – the You Tube video. It was caused by radical Muslim terrorists. Ft. Hood was sold by Obama as “workplace violence” – no purple hearts were awarded. Will you allow the marathon bombings to be sold to Bostonian in any other than the real truth? People around here are not stupid.

      • Barry Kort

        Justice also requires Solomonic wisdom. That seems to be in short supply in this day and age.

  • Bob Rand

    Unbelievable article. Was this written from the same mindset that removed pressure cookers from the shelves at Williams-Sonoma? It’s article like this that make a tame, loving society want to go back to vigilante justice. This “loving” boy set off bombs in our beautiful, loving city. I feel nothing but extreme hate for this guy. And don’t tell me that I can’t buy a pressure cooker at Williams-Sonoma. Please remind me, if I forget, to never set foot in a store as stupid as that.

    • Mark in Danvers

      Dude, chill out, you’re not making any sense and you are mis-directing your extreme hate. This is an honest article addressing the sympathetic sentiment many (not most) people have. This guy was most likely just a stupid kid filled with stupid ideas and a lot of misdirected hate – and he should spend the rest of his life behind bars.

      • Greg Cronin

        He should and will be executed!

        • Barry Kort

          I disagree with the first and predict the second will not occur (at least in my remaining lifetime).

  • kristine

    I’m glad to read that someone shares the same feelings I’m feeling. I have a son who is the same age so I see the suspect as a boy of 19.

  • Brigitte

    Thank you for saying it out loud.

  • Bill

    Having compassion for the perpetrator of a violent crime does not eliminate a place for great sorrow for the crime itself and caring for the victims.

  • Essexcnty1

    Interesting. How would you all feel if his head was shaved, tattooed, he was missing some teeth and his eyes were blue?

  • JDB

    You were not alone. I have a son, too, and I was feeling the same way. I think the fact that we still have our humanity, and can have compassion for this young man in the face of the awful things he did, shows that terror can not take away what is most important. I’m sad that all the people in his life were unable to put the puzzle pieces together (his sudden failure in college, the police record and attitudes of his older brother, the lack of everyday parental guidance) and see that he was headed down a frightening path.

  • Jim Brown

    I felt that sympathy (or is it empathy?) at the time he was in the boat. I remember posting on Facebook “Send in a priest or a medic if the cops won’t go in.” I was really worried he would bleed out before the cops moved in.

    • BozToz

      Were you worried about his bleeding out before the authorities got to question him? Is that it?

  • Bob Rand

    Back to the tennis court Tiziana. Pathetic.

  • Bob Rand

    I have great compassion for the gentle, loving boy who blew up bombs in
    crowded places I can’t help but be thankful that vigilante justice is
    no longer practiced in this loving country. If the crowd was allowed to
    vent, this young, loving boy would have been captured, wrapped in barbed
    wire and had gasoline poured over him. He would have gone up in flames
    just the way he should have.

  • familyfandango

    I found myself feeling the same way on Friday evening. I think maybe I was trying to find some good in the terrible nature of what had happened, some redeeming factor that would help explain why it had happened in the first place.

    • Barry Kort

      The Process of Enlightenment Works in Mysterious Plays

      Like any apocalyptic event, there is indeed a hidden insight waiting to be
      revealed. This is hardly the first time an event of seemingly inexplicable and senseless violence has occurred in our culture. Sometimes it takes multiple episodes before the general public apprehends the underlying pattern. But the experts who study these recurring episodes published their findings ages ago.

  • Marion Williams-Bennett

    The fact that so many of us have had the same reaction gives me hope. It’s not that we are ignoring the fact that what he did was so horrible, it was. But just as we weep for the victims, there is some part of us that also grieves for what would compel a 19 year old to commit these crimes and end up “terrified, bleeding, vulnerable and at the end of any promise in his life…” So much sadness in all of these stories.

    • Bob Rand

      This poor boy must have had some sad trauma in his early life. Maybe it was the open welcome he got when entering the United States, his food and rent bills paid by his neighbors or maybe it was the scholarship he obtained for college.

      • Abigail Baker

        Or the welfare paayments from the state of MA

      • Barry Kort

        It’s more likely he inherited the residue of the traumas passed down from his parents and older sibling.

    • Greg Cronin

      Marion, you may be the biggest idiot in the World! Move to Chechyna you dope!

      • Emily Elizabeth

        If your only response seems to be name calling and belittling of others opinions, maybe you need to express your comments on a sight that attacks “dopes” like yourself.

        • Emily Elizabeth

          whoops- I meant *attracts* “dopes like yourself!

  • Bob Rand

    Written by a tennis playing non-profit CEO who lives in very upscale Newton, MA and is a moonbat.

  • Bob Rand

    Tiziana, why not interview Bill Ayers and find out his loving views on setting off bombs in public spaces? From Wikipedia: “In
    1980 Ayers and Dohrn surrendered to law-enforcement authorities, but
    all charges against them were later dropped due to an “improper
    surveillance” technicality — government authorities had failed to get a
    warrant for some of their surveillance. Said Ayers regarding this
    stroke of good fortune: “Guilty as sin, free as a bird. America is a
    great country.”

    • Barry Kort

      An insightful psychologist once remarked to me, “The world is not a Just Place. It’s just a place.”

  • Bob Rand

    What does a “non-profit CEO” actually do? Work extra hard to not make any money and somehow be supported by those that do work hard? Get back to the tennis court in upscale Newton, MA. Pathetic.

  • Niff

    As a mom, I felt the same way. I was also hesitant about sharing my thoughts about it. I kept thinking “He must be so scared in there. He must be wishing that he never listened to his brother and that he was at soccer practice”….I hope he was thinking all that. If he wasn’t – it is much scarier to think what a monster he could be.

  • RSD

    I wonder if this is a typically feminine response, I’m female although not a parent, and also felt the same way. Although, once I watched footage of the dancer who lost her foot (on CNN), the level of compassion waned…

    • Ryan Arnold

      I’m not so sure it is typically feminine. But it is far less common for men to voice or even explore their own compassion, because we’ve been conditioned to thump our chests in times like this. I’m a dad, and I share the same feelings expressed in the article. This terrorist is a kid. A stupid, stupid kid. Many terrorists are. And for all we know, he was a born murderer, but it is more likely that he was not — that he was radicalized and indoctrinated by his brother or some as yet unseen sociopathic mentors. If so, why shouldn’t we mourn for the person Dzhokhar could have been? Why shouldn’t it make us sad when a life is wasted?

  • AWS

    I agree. I, too, can want him held completely accountable for his crimes, and still feel pain for him. The actions he chose to take, regardless of whether he believed in a cause, were horrific actions against innocent people, actions I simply can’t comprehend and abhor. But those actions apparently weren’t his entire life. There is no denying that he is going to most likely be executed, and if not at the very least spend his life in prison. He earned that, and pending a fair trial, that should all go forward. But that doesn’t, and shouldn’t, discount the fact that he had previously done good in his life, too. It seems like he was a good kid for a long time, one that his mother was undoubtedly proud of. No one wants to see their son die at all, much less under such horrific circumstances, even if he brought it on himself. I feel for his mother, and for him. And I hope the people who knew him as a good person can take comfort in the fact that they meant something to him, or else he wouldn’t have been so good at the time. I was glad they took him alive, for the sake of our humanity, for the sake of information, and for his sake.

  • Beth Foster

    T, I felt the same way! I am afraid to voice it among my immediate peer group, but there are pockets of people everywhere who can relate. For me, it was the reports from his classmates that he seems like a nice, normal, teenager. You expect terrorists to be dark, broody, hateful, loners. I can’t make the actual image of him mesh with the one that he should fit. It throws me off balance. Beth Allen BCC class of ’91 :)

  • doug

    Not feeling it. My favorite part was when this “fellow” ran over his brother.

    • Barry Kort


  • Bob Rand

    Tiziana, I read this morning that no one has come forward to claim
    Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body. Neither his wife Katherine or any other family members have come forward to claim the 26-year-old’s body. Here’s an idea for you. You could present your empathetic self to the appropriate officials and volunteer to use some of your tax supported non profit money to provide a proper and fitting burial for this gentleman.

    • Barry Kort

      NPR reports that the father is flying to the US later today.

      • Greg Cronin

        And NPR always tells the truth!

        • Bob Rand

          Ironic that the CEO of NPR was forced to resign..

        • Barry Kort

          The ‘truth’ is a slippery critter.

          The latest news is that neither parent will come to the US after all.

          The mother evidently has some “unfinished business” with the law here, and father is said to be in ill health which is further exacerbated by the stress of this epic tragedy.

  • Ben Crosby

    I’ve been, honestly, a little bit scared by all the anger and hatred that has been directed at these two brothers since the attacks. I, too, live in Newton and was on lockdown on Friday. I, too, was scared, and am grieving for my city and for everyone harmed by the Tsarnaev brothers. But anger will never improve anything, and the people who are waiting for Dzokhar to explain why he and his brother did this have to realize that they will never learn anything from him if their focus is on their anger. To “other” Dzokhar and Tamerlan to the point that we can imagine them as “evil,” and imagine that they don’t suffer from the same fears and pains as everyone else, will not serve to benefit anyone, and is an act of willful, easy ignorance–chosen instead of doing the difficult work of seeing these men as people in need of compassion. There are few people in the world right now who need compassion as much as Dzokhar does.

    • Essexcnty1

      Such a crock.

    • Jackie F

      Like the Manson Family?

    • Greg Cronin

      Only in the wealthy enclave of Newton would someone feels sorry for these savages. Move out of Newton and see the real world!

      • zendegy

        there and in any place that devout Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews or others who believe in the better parts of humanity meet.

        • Mokita Syzygy

          Boston College is a good place to meet thoughtful and peace-loving scholars from many walks of life.

  • Kate Valenzi Bedard

    I too felt that motherly instinct… immediately, heck he’s only 19! When I first vocalized my feelings, people were quick to point out how he smirked as he walked away from the backpack, set in front of children…. his comment after the attacks about how terrible things happen every day – ruthless, evil, so very true…. I felt guilty about my maternal feelings…Thank you for sharing your thoughts; as I felt it was wrong to feel the way I do… However; please let it be known that, I too, reserve the bulk of my sorrow for the families and victims of these horrific, evil events.

  • Lois Tetreault

    never feel badly about having compassion.

    • Barry Kort

      Oddly enough, there is one exception to this rule that I’d like some insight on.

      When two foes are in a state of war, they tend to have mutual antagonism, mutual contempt, mutual antipathy, mutual obsession with defeating the other.

      If that isn’t an example of empathy, I dunno what is. Each is mirroring the other’s affective emotional state, as if their so-called “mirror neurons” were operating like a finely tuned machine, each one perfectly attuned to the other, and thereby arriving in near identical synchrony in their mutually reciprocal anger and contempt for the other.

  • Kassi P.

    Like many others have expressed here, I feel the same way. Thank you, thank you, for sharing this. You can imagine how comforting it is to know I’m not the only one who’s felt this way. I’ve felt very alone and guilty for feeling concerned and sad for him. I don’t have kids, but I share the same sentiments mentioned here. I wish they would stop reporting about him and stop showing his picture.

    • Bob Rand

      You felt “very alone and guilty” for feeling concerned and sad for this piece of human excrement?

  • Christine F.

    I feel the same way – I’m glad you wrote to acknowledge you did too, thank you.

  • Christina

    Thank you for putting into words what I had been struggling with regarding my own feelings. I live in Waltham (a mere few miles from the shootout in Watertown) and was on lockdown on Friday too. The experience was scary and surreal. And I was still devastated by the bombing itself and exhausted from the emotion of the week. But, I have not been able to stop thinking about Dzhokhar. I’ve thought about how scared he must have been, and I’ll admit, uneasily, that I have cried for him. I have been so confused, and somewhat horrified, about these feelings, and so very conflicted, especially given all the tears I had already shed for the victims of the bombing, and how relieved I was that he was caught. I literally began to think I was going crazy. I’m no conspiracy theorist, or apologist for criminals, how could I be feeling bad for this kid? What was/is wrong with me? I’m not religious, so my feelings are not motivated by that either. But, I am a mom, so maybe that is it. Or, I don’t want to believe that this could be my kid someday, or yours, or anyone’s. Whatever it is, I am happy to know that I am not alone.

    • tracyishome

      I’ll admit that I felt even worse when I heard that he was found UNARMED in that boat. My heart sunk. It is such a metaphor regarding how it seems, in my opinion, that his older brother stole his life from him. Even to the point of leaving him out there without a weapon to protect himself. The older brother had a gun, but didn’t think the younger brother deserved protection? I feel like the older brother used the younger, collateral damage. Maybe I’m wrong, Jahar may have had a gun, may have dropped it or ditched it, some say he is the one who shot the MIT officer. My feelings are confused, but mostly I see a kid whose teachers, coaches and school friends all say was a typical American teenager. And a kid whose dad left, and then his mother left, and all he had was his misguided, disgruntled, violent angry older brother. All these people….friends, teachers, coaches….who loved him, but apparently he didn’t know it. The saddest part is that he ALMOST made it. Just one phone call to the cops about his brother, just one conversation with a teacher or coach, his life could have been saved. And the lives and limbs of so many others. Scary for all of us to see that the influence of violence could overpower all the other positive influences in his life. We are not just feeling badly for Jahar, we are feeling fear for all of our society because it warns of how close so many people may be to the edge.

      • Dan

        So he needed a gun to protect himself. Who were the people he was going to use it on to protect himselt?

        • Barry Kort

          I frankly wonder the same thing about those whom the NRA are laboring to empower.

    • Susie Trevino

      Ihave a set of twins boy / girl they will B 8 on Monday. I also. Have an 18 year old daughter. I have been feeling so many different things
      My heart goes out 2 so many!

  • Shannon

    Wow, you completely captured my feelings on Friday night, right down to assuming that he was simply under his brother’s spell. Thank you for posting this. We should be able to express compassion and concern for him without it diluting our care about the victims.

  • Catherine King

    I thought I was the only one too. I mentioned to someone that maybe as years in prison go by for him that he will realize the impact of his actions and could possibly influence others who are going down that road. Probably a futile thought and I didnt get a lot of feedback. Most telling was the response on my 11 year old son’s face. He and I were in front of the Lord and Taylor when the bombs went off so he knew first hand what this guy had done. I let him follow some of the investigation along on Friday and could see the concern on his face when he saw the photo’s and realized this guy was alone out there being hunted down. A lot of conflict going on. Meanwhile, as an Irish born US citizen living in the Boston area I was saddened to read the column by Irish Times Fintan O’Toole yesterday and especially the extend of the Anti American feeling coming from Irish Times readers;

    • Greg Cronin

      Prison? He’s going to be executed.

      • Barry Kort


  • Robyn

    Compassion and love is the lesson….

    • Barry Kort

      My sentiments exactly.

  • bren

    These were my exact thoughts, probably from the same moment you had them. I am so glad you shared them.

  • Brenda Sheridan

    Oh I am so glad you wrote this. It took a lot of courage, I think. I have felt the same way, pretty much from the same moment you did. I kept seeing him as a kid, and a hurt kid, bleeding and scared. It doesn’t take away my horror over what he did, but it helps me to see him not as a monster, but as someone’s child, who did something terribly wrong. I have a similar story line in my imagination. I don’t know what the true story will be, so I stick with the one that brings me some comfort,I guess. Thanks again.

    • Essexcnty1

      “I’m sorry, I’m a 19 year old man and I forgot that killing and maiming was a horrifically wrong thing to do and is against the law.

      • Mokita Syzygy

        It’s astonishing what can be accomplished with a simple narrative.

        A lot of 19-year olds listened to a compelling narrative from a respected authority figure and signed up to throw bombs at people in foreign lands. Those bombs killed a lot of children and innocent civilians. And then those young soldiers came home and suffered PTSD, just like Homer wrote about in The Odyssey, some 2700 years ago.

        • Expanded_Consciousness

          You are calling our US soldiers the moral equivalent of these murders. That is sick. The US is trying to keep you safe and prevent collateral damage. These two intended and succeeded in killing innocents. No moral equivalence.

          • Mokita Syzygy

            Have you reckoned the sickness known as PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)?

            Why is that long-lasting emotional state not called Post-War Heroism Elation?

  • twitsu

    I am so relieved to know I’m not the only one who felt this. The whole story is heartbreaking and deeply bewildering from every angle.

    • Bob Rand

      Deeply bewildering? Is that another way of saying that radical muslim extremists have finally been acknowledged to be the culprits?

      • Barry Kort

        A mirror is a bewildering instrument.

  • Expanded_Consciousness

    You can only feel this way from a distance. Stare him in the eye as he smiles and tells you he wishes he made it to New York with a slew of more bombs to explode under people’s feet. You think he was scared and crying in the boat? He was violently fuming and wishing he could get out of there and kill more Americans. His brother did it all and he didn’t know what was going on? Nonsense. This is not about motherly instinct. It is about sexual attraction to the young man and about women playing victim. They are so used to spinning the false narrative that they are innocent victims, that then they extend that nonsense to this murderer (who they project their own aggression into). Mass murderers always have a slew of women showing up at the prison willing to marry them. Just sick.

    It is ridiculous that you imagine him being remorseful while in the boat versus full of murderous rage. You need to reflect further and a little deeper.

    • Sarah

      I bet you think you’re a Christian, don’t you?

      • Expanded_Consciousness

        No. An atheist, but thanks for asking.

        • Barry Kort

          Do you believe in the (variously divine or infernal) Process of Becoming Aware?

  • Bob Rand

    It’s time to remove pressure cookers from the shelves of department stores. These weapons of mass destruction have no place in our society.

  • Sarah

    I have the same feelings. I grieve for the victims and their families but I also grieve for this very young man and what his life might have been, and for his mother. My gut tells me that he was pushed into this terrible act. I don’t see hate or malice in his face. It truly is about compassion–loving the unlovable.

    • Expanded_Consciousness

      He’d laugh his face off if he could read your comment. You are seduced by his photo? A second of his life captured by a camera. You know his whole personality from that snapshot. You think murderers scowl every second of the day? This isn’t a movie. This is real life.

      • Barry Kort

        If this tragedy were a comic opera (which it is not), I’d be guffawing at your amusing theory of mind regarding the various characters in this bizarre opera.

  • Frannie Carr

    Hi all —
    This area is meant to be a place for discussion and debate. While we encourage you to engage one another and our writers, please keep the tone of your comment(s) civil. Our general policy is to remove comments that contain swears, threats or abusive language. Here’s a link to more info about our community discussion guidelines:
    All Best,
    Frannie, editor/producer of Cog

  • Emma

    I was grateful to read this… because I too was caught up with conflicting feelings about Dzhokhar. I felt guilty admitting this piece, since I also am overwhelmed with compassion for those who experienced terrbile loss during this tragedy. I too am a mother…and we live in Watertown–so close to this story. I want to appropriately justify my concern for this boy who committed such a hate-filled act, but it just ‘is what it is’… a feeling… a sad sense of despair… a mothering-type of feeling… that may or may not make logical sense, but it exists nonetheless and I’m happy to not be alone.

  • Robin Gillespie

    I felt that this was a teen, born in a war zone, abandoned by his parents and left to the care of a disturbed and probably admired older brother. One has to think about the confluence.

    • Barry Kort

      That’s precisely what James Gilligan, a distinguished researcher on the roots of violence, has been thinking about for most of his academic career.

  • Alex

    I agree. Just minutes after the climatic capture of “suspect white hat,” I hesitated to post my reaction on social media. Would people judge me? Was it horrible of me to express compassion for this “nice college kid”, this “terrorist and murderer”? I had been watching TV for over 14 hours straight that Friday, and during that time, I came to know this young man – his friends, his high school, his champion wresting career, his college dorm, his uncles and parents. I even knew he went to prom and liked to smoke pot. I was overwhelmed by the intensity of the week, of that day, of a manhunt minutes from where I live and work. I wrote:
    “This young man has committed despicable, unspeakable acts, but I cannot help think he is a 19 year-old kid, who just moments ago, was hiding under a boat, injured and bleeding, cornered by the police and the world, knowing that he would be killed either by police or by his own hand, or spend the rest of his life in jail. He is alive. Pretty intense.”

    When I heard he was handcuffed to his hospital bed, I worried for him. His brother was dead, his parents far away. What happened to this kid- did he understand his actions? Then I listen to the victims, and their families, and my heart breaks. I see a photo of little Martin Richard peeking over the metal barrier, cute as could be, smiling, anticipating his Dad’s arrival at the finish line. It’s just all so heartbreaking. And senseless.

    As another reader said, feeling compassion for another life should never be shameful, but it feels shameful. But in my heart, I know it is not.

    What 9/11 taught me, perhaps more than anything, is that there is story, a life, and a connection behind every single person. And this 19 year-old kid, for good or for bad, is one of those lives. I used to pass by ‘crowds of people’, or see ‘a guy’ waiting for a bus. Now when I see that ‘guy’, I see actually see him. I see into him. I know that he is someone’s son, someone’s best friend, someone’s first kiss, someone’s best man; he has joys and sorrows and passions. He is a vibrant life on this earth. Prior to 9/11, I never saw that by looking at a person, I would have to get to know a person to see that. And now, that’s all I see.

    • Expanded_Consciousness

      “When I heard he was handcuffed to his hospital bed, I worried for him.”

      He was being nursed back to health by a civilized society that curbed its natural instinct and inclination to kill him. Yet, you feel poor him, he should have free use of his hands?

      • Barry Kort

        Members of the medical profession subscribe to the Hippocratic Oath: First of all, do no harm.

        Is it the natural inclination of a civilized society to do harm?

        If so, how did that curious inclination come to be part of our cultural character?

  • sjw81

    this monster blew up children.

    • Barry Kort

      The year I was born, the US blew up a lot of children in foreign lands.

      How shall I reckon that?

      • Greg Cronin

        You should move to Chechyna Barry you slob!

        • Mokita Syzygy

          Greg, I’ve been studying your Facebook page to see if I could understand a little better where you are coming from.

          You seem to have done OK at Boston Latin School. Did something go awry in your studies at Boston College? Did you somehow become disaffected?

          Can you tell us what happened to make an otherwise successful young scholar such as yourself become so inexplicably mean spirited?

      • Expanded_Consciousness

        The US is trying to keep you safe and not have collateral damage. These two were trying to kill innocents and did. There is no moral equivalence here, which is the specious argument you are trying to make.

        • Barry Kort

          The US (along with many other governments around the world) has long been engaging in iatrogenic practices that have made all of us considerably less safe than if these governments had simply engaged in Restorative Justice instead of starting ill-conceived wars in foreign lands where our own impressionable 19-yr old youths ended up killing innocent women, children, and civilians who had no part supporting or defending cross-border terroristic violence.

          That’s why — as Homer first portrayed in The Odyssey — our soldiers come home with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) rather than PWHE (Post-War Heroism Elation).

          • Expanded_Consciousness

            Iatrogenic is a side-effect from medical treatment. The US government is not medically treating foreign governments that harbor terrorists, they are going to war.

          • Barry Kort

            Iatrogenic effects are not side effects. They are predictable effects that make the patient sicker, or spreads the disease to others.

            War is an egregiously iatrogenic treatment. It makes us sicker, kills us, spreads the cancerous disease of war wider, and causes new outbreaks of the cancer of war.

    • joe church

      i am sickened by this cruel compassion. He killed 4 outstanding people and maimed 100’s.
      Typical NPR junk and why I do not give a cent to them.
      Funny, you will react stronger to me than this guy.
      Wake up!

      • Barry Kort

        Would you be distressed if I prayed for divine healing from your sickness?

  • Athma

    This story is sick. This “mother” would feel completely different if any of her loved ones affected by the atrocious incident even the slightest.

    • Barry Kort

      It occurs to me that Tiziana most likely does have loved ones who were affected by this tragedy. It’s also manifestly obvious that Tiziana herself is affected by this incident. Affected enough to even write about it.

      Look at how many of us have been affected enough to write about it.

  • Nancy Greene

    My first thought seeing him lying on the ground was that he’s too thin. I wanted to buy him a cheeseburger. My sons are 18 and 21, so definitely a mom response. I continue to err on the side of compassion. Relieved I’m not alone in feeling this way.

  • SEMmassachusetts

    I feel exactly the same way. A 19 year old kid making awful decisions. I feel sad for the people at the marathon of course, but also sad for the boys who did this. And for the parents of everyone involved. As a parent, it’s easy to look at one’s own child and imagine the horror if they were either a victim or a perpetrator. …. The younger Tsarnaev brother sounded like a sweet person who somehow went astray. I look at the skinny boy lying on the ground, I think of my own son and I cry. I wonder for both of the brothers whether a small nudge down a different path might have averted the whole catastrophe.

    • Bob Rand

      The “kid” would have learned a good lesson if he had some knowledge of our justice system and how it evolved from vigilante justice to a trial system and the Constitution. A “sweet person who somehow went astray”?

      • Barry Kort

        Ask Aaron Swartz about our justice system. Or if you can’t find him, ask Larry Lessig. Or ask me.

        We’ll tell you how the Law was an ill-conceived idea that predictably went astray.

  • 321lastoff

    Disgusting. Were you worried about the shoe bomber too? Osama bin Laden? Timmothy McVeigh? Stop being manipulated by the media and the murderer’s age.

  • Kathy Wnuk

    This young man killed 4 people. Other victims are missing limbs, feet. They’re suffering and their families are suffering. What about their potential? What about their feelings? Empathy is fine and all, but to those who were worried about this killer, your feelings are misplaced, imo.

    • justmytwocents

      It’s not misplaced. It’s just differently distributed. Having empathy for the murderer does not mean that I shut out anger, despair and hatred for his actions, nor that I don’t have boundless sadness for the people he maimed and killed, and their families, communities, and the country.

      • Barry Kort

        It’s quite possible that Tamerlan acted out of feelings of anger, despair, and hatred.

        If that were the case, and if you now harbor feelings of anger and hatred for the brothers, then it occurs to me your “mirror neurons” are putting you into a reciprocal state of empathy, so that you now feel the same way toward the brothers as they presumably felt toward mainstream America.

        There may be an irony here, or (more hopefully) there may be a valuable insight here worth pondering some quiet Sunday morning.

        • justmytwocents

          I don’t now harbor feelings of anger or hatred at all. I don’t think that’s likely to change, though I suppose it could. For now, empathy continues, and I find resonance with the person who posted this: “I know I should feel ashamed but know that my heart knows I shouldn’t”. And as for my neurons, I think there is some similar thread of connectomes which binds us empathizers, and clearly a thread which binds those in the lynch mob.

          • Barry Kort

            I am gratified to learn that whatever feelings of anger or hatred that may have paid a fleeting visit last week have since subsided.

            The issue of shame vs remorse is a useful one to consider next.

            The best research I know of (from Brené Brown and James Gilligan) on shame reveals a significant distinction teasing apart guilt, shame, and remorse and their respective effects on future tendencies toward violence or constructive reform of one’s estimable character.

          • justmytwocents

            Barry, I never had feelings of hatred, the original poster had told me (and others ) that our empathy was misplaced; i merely responded. But I have enjoyed and appreciated both your posts /replies to Bob Rand/others- reasoned and respectful – and your links and suggestions. Thank you.

          • Barry Kort

            I appreciate your sentiments.

            I hope that, on balance, these conversations have been helpful in the healing process.

  • Chad

    As a parent I would be afraid for my own child in that situation. Also as a parent I am glad his brother is dead and we have one in custody. We can learn more from him alive and use the information to round up more of these Islamic terrorist. His place of prayer should be investigated and all who attend. This is a war they bring to us and we need to stop with the PC.

    • Barry Kort

      Yes, we can learn more from him alive. But what we can learn is how to reconcile with our disaffected Muslim minority rather than how to demonize and alienate them even more.

  • justmytwocents

    I’m not a parent. I don’t find the kid attractive, and if he were toothless and blue eyed and fat I would still be baffled by my strange feelings of sadness for this kid. I am not a bleeding heart liberal and I’m frankly quite sick of reading how I must be. If someone in my family had been killed or maimed, I’d like to think I’d feel differently, but to be truthful, I don’t think I would- and yes, I do love my family above all else. This is a tragedy on all levels. This kid was perfectly assimilated by all accounts, and nothing explains his behavior or actions from Monday forward. OBVIOUSLY I feel pain, fury, and horror for ALL their victims, and cannot fathom how terrible this is and will continue to be for them. It is unspeakable. But I thank you for voicing this, and to know that something does register as horribly horribly tragic for this KID. I can’t explain it even to myself. I know he is no more than a murderer. I know he might kill me if he had the chance. I wish I could hate him.

  • justmytwocents

    I’m not a parent. I don’t find the kid attractive, and if he were
    toothless and blue eyed and fat I would still be baffled by my strange
    feelings of sadness for this kid. I am not a bleeding heart liberal and
    I’m frankly quite sick of reading how I must be. If someone in my family
    had been killed or maimed, I’d like to think I’d feel differently, but
    to be truthful, I don’t think I would- and yes, I do love my family
    above all else. This is a tragedy on all levels. This kid was perfectly
    assimilated by all accounts, and nothing explains his behavior or
    actions from Monday forward. OBVIOUSLY I feel pain, fury, and horror for
    ALL their victims, and cannot fathom how terrible this is and will
    continue to be for them. It is unspeakable. But I thank you for voicing
    this, and to know that something does register as horribly horribly
    tragic for this KID. I can’t explain it even to myself. I know he is no
    more than a murderer. I know he might kill me if he had the chance. I
    wish I could hate him.

  • JC

    Thank you for your article. It mirrors everything I was feeling, but afraid to admit.

    • Bob Rand

      WBUR and NPR did not cover the Gosnell murders until 5 weeks into the
      trial. CBS has given a total of 12 seconds to the story.. Crickets at
      NBC and ABC. I wonder what Tiziana would say about a doctor snipping the
      necks of newborns. As a state senator in Illinois Obama voted three
      times not to restrict killing babies that were born alive after an
      induced abortion. What are Tiziana’s tennis playing, trust-funded,
      non-profit CEO’s views on her motherly instincts here?

      • Barry Kort

        Bob, if you have a blog, I’d urge to write a coherent account of the issues that trouble you.

  • Vanessa

    I’m only 25, no kids, and my heart was breaking thinking of what he was thinking in those hours. Was he thinking at that point, ‘What was I thinking? What do I do now?’…only 19, and so alone and so unguided. His parents had moved back to Russia, leaving him with his brother.
    This does not change that I want justice for everyone involved and for our city.

    • Barry Kort

      What I’d most like to know was what Jahar was thinking when he drove the car at the police officers who were hovering over his injured brother.

      In particular, did Jahar believe Tamerlan was already dead? If not, what was Jahar’s thinking and intent when he drove the car over the spot where his older brother was lying on the pavement?

  • Nicole

    Thank you so much for this. I too have been struggling with similar feelings. I think it’s difficult for a number of reasons; his age, as yet unclear motives for his crimes, a hope that there is some explanation outside of hate or malice (if one could exist). Another way to view this is after a decade of trying to squelch violence with violence, maybe we are more inclined to seek answers and thus see the perpetrators of these heinous acts as humans (troubled as they might be) rather than monsters unfit for any emotional expenditure apart from disdain.

  • Clint Cavanaugh

    Dear Bob,
    I’ve divined from your many remarks that you have not one shred of
    sympathy for this kid. You can, of course, feel any way you like about it.
    However, you seem to assume a lot about him and maybe you’re confusing our
    responses with forgiveness or acceptance of this heinous act.

    Was he an islamist extremist? Or was he simply the little brother of one, who didn’t have the good sense or courage not to let his big brother drag him into this
    nightmare? None of us knows. But, I, too, was concerned for him. In my mind, he
    might have been in that boat or in the corner of a cellar, filled with dread and
    remorse, wondering what he’d let himself be talked into, knowing he’d ruined
    and altered so many lives–including his own, shivering, in pain, perhaps
    crying like the kid he is.

    None of what he did can be forgiven, but I think it’s marvelous that so many of
    us didn’t react JUST with anger and fear, but also with the lovely human
    quality of…empathy. Almost all of us have made a bad decision that might have
    changed our and others’ lives, but almost all of us were lucky enough to have
    dodged that fate. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s decision was intentional, which makes it
    much worse. And he absolutely deserves whatever punishment he gets. But a part of me–and I think it’s a good part–is happy that I and so many others have
    big enough hearts and minds that have evolved enough to go that step beyond
    fear and anger and allow the “kid” the ounce of humanity that so sadly seems to have eluded him and his brother.

    • zendegy


    • Expanded_Consciousness

      “In my mind, he might have been in that boat or in the corner of a cellar, filled with dread and remorse”

      Wishful thinking. This comes from you, not him. He would gladly kill you, yet you are imagining him to be instantly reformed.

      • Clint Cavanaugh

        Dear Expanded,

        No, I harbor no illusion that this kid’s instantly reformed. And even if he were to reform, that wouldn’t absolve him of his guilt. However, I’m a pretty astute student of human nature and I can see issues from many sides, not just the one that pertains to or concerns me. And the lack of that, the thing we call empathy, is one of the things that appalls me most in culture. It shows that we’ve not evolved much, or call it “matured” if you like, as a race. That was why these two guys (allegedly) did what they did: they’re unable to see life from anyone else’s persepective, to accept that some of us choose to live one way, others, another, but as long as we DON’T harm each other, who the hell cares? We don’t have to like one another, but we do, if we don’t want to keep living in fear of these stupid, hateful attacks, have to accept that there are different ways of seeing things. I don’t think anyone who’s written in here has said Djokhar shouldn’t be punished, but so many of us have expressed a point of view that really and truly does point to a bona fide expanded consciousness!

        • Barry Kort

          I’m not convinced that punishment is the best practice here. It may be the most favored practice by the majority, but that doesn’t make it society’s best practice if our objective is to attenuate the frequency of these recurring tragedies in our troubled culture.

    • Susie Trevino

      Thank U.

  • keltcrusader

    “While I understand the need to recognize this young man as a fellow human and wonder what happened, he lost his humanity the moment he purposely set down that bag containing death & destruction in a crowd filled with children, women, & men and walked away.”
    I wrote this the other day on the Here & Now site and was lambasted by another poster for acting as judge & jury without sufficient evidence. I am a Mom too and my 1st concerns were with those children who were killed and injured in this attack. Young lives changed forever. I cannot feel sympathy for this young man after what he has (been purported to have) done. At 19, you are enough of an adult to know right from wrong.

  • ELFK

    I’m sad not for the terrorist but for the kid-young man that he could have been. I’m sad that the decisions he took ruined his life and other people’s lives being so young. I feel bad for that mother who realizes that she has given birth to 2 monsters.

  • Guest

    I have a young son at home too. I like to say that I would hold any child of mine accountable for any wrong doing, yet instinctively, I protect them at all costs. I can’t say that I empathize with you folks that share concern for this young person. However, I can understand it. I work with youth everyday in my profession and it saddens me when they don’t make the best choices for themselves, but I also don’t own any of their mistakes. This young person fundamentally understands right from wrong. If he were 12 or even 14 I can say, maybe, that he didn’t get it. However, this young person, who was raised here, taught by our systems, embraced by our communities; did have the developmental capacity to understand what he was doing. If this young man was black and from an urban setting, your empathy would not resonate this profoundly.

  • Heather Katrina

    I feel the exact same way! I thought I would be the only one in the world to feel this way!

  • Barry Kort

    I, too, am worried about Jahar. But I am worried for a somewhat different reason.

    Jahar was not the first (nor will he be the last) young man to inexplicably engage in an act of violence so inconsistent with the expectations of those who knew him.

    What we have a chance to learn here is how he flipped from a friendly, congenial, sociable, and likable “Dr. Jekyll” into a sociopathic and violent “Mr. Hyde.”

    If we can learn that, we can take sensible measures to minimize the likelihood that others will undergo the same unexpected conversion.

    The sooner we solve that puzzle, the sooner will we learn how to prevent future incidents of inexplicable violence by young men like Jahar and so many others who inexplicably turn to violence.

    • incredulous

      Barry – does the term “banality of evil” strike a chord with you? Did you feel compassion for Eichmann when he was captured by the Israelis? Enough with the psychobabble.

      • Barry Kort

        I followed the Eichmann trial closely, but I was too young at the time to apprehend the feelings of most people involved in the Holocaust story.

        However, I recently became aware of a Holocaust survivor who did share her feelings. The story might surprise you.

        What I can also tell you is a personal story. While I was not alive during the Holocaust years, I nonetheless nearly died at the hands of someone who sincerely wanted me dead. I was perplexed by this unexpected experience, and undertook substantial research to apprehend the mindset of my would-be killer. It turned out to be the same mindset as described in the oldest murder story in the book — the Cain and Abel Story.

        I wouldn’t call it incredulous, but it’s astonishing how much strife is rooted in respect and contempt.

  • LinRP

    I felt that way a bit too. Then I went to Boylston St. I read the tributes, felt the grief all around me, saw the sad sight of such an empty street. The reason for it all hit me like a ton of bricks, and my sympathy for this boy evaporated like the smoke from his bomb. I do not hate him, I am truly sorry for all that came before to twist him into the deranged killer he became, but I no longer offer him my protective feelings in any way shape or form.

  • SteveTheTeacher

    I have additional feelings on this matter.

    The Tsarnaev brother’s seem to have been disturbed by the US military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is true, that the US military and intelligence agencies have committed atrocious human rights violations in these countries. The the US military and intelligence agencies have killed and wounded tens of thousands of innocent civilians in these countries. On the day of the marathon bombing, it was also announced that, one of the drones President Obama authorized, dropped a bomb on a house killing several women and children in Pakistan. This is very disturbing and must be stopped.

    However, the response to these crimes against humanity is not to commit more crimes against humanity. Rather, the proper response is to push for Presidents Bush, Obama, et. al, to be tried for their crime against humanity in an international criminal court.

    As a teacher, I have gotten to know many young people. I have seen how they care for their friends, family, and even strangers. But, I have also seen some of the nicest kids, participate in extremely heinous acts. They seem to lose rational thought in the heat of passion. In some cases, I have had the opportunity to speak to them afterwards. Their story is similar. They didn’t think about the consequences of their actions; at some point, things went past their ability to process it; several have described feeling as if they were in a dream and their body was acting on some type of automatic pilot.

    What I have learned is that young people, are often very naive, gullible, easily manipulated, and often act without thinking things through. My sense is that we need to provide young people with the tools to handle very challenging moral situations. We need to do a better job in giving young people a strong foundation in the knowledge that all human life is precious and invaluable.

    • Barry Kort

      However, the response to these crimes against humanity is not to commit more crimes against humanity. Rather, the proper response is to push for Presidents Bush, Obama, et al to be tried for their crime against humanity in an international criminal court.

      The systemic problem of violence under the color of law cannot be solved by answering one instance of (military) violence under the color of law with yet another instance of (judicially imposed punitive) violence under the color of law.

      • SteveTheTeacher

        I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that Bush, Obama, et. al, should/will be subject to judicially imposed violence if/when tried for their crimes against humanity in an international court.

        Ideally, I think it would be more appropriate for these individuals to be compelled to dedicate their lives to working, on the ground, in service to the families they have so devastated. Have Bush care for the cyclops babies caused by the depleted Uranium he had dropped on Iraq. Have Obama care for the parents whose lives he decimated by killing their children through his drone attacks.

        • Mokita Syzygy

          I don’t know that you can compel a sociopath to care for his victims. They might be somehow flipped to a state of remorse, but I don’t think one can compel a state of remorse.

    • Greg Cronin

      SteveTheIdiot, you should not be allowed near any kids with the mind set!

      • SteveTheTeacher

        Greg Cronin wrote: “SteveTheIdiot”

        Those who make ad hominem attacks, without any pretense of rational discourse, only serve to prove their inability to challenge ideas on their merits with cogent counter arguments.

        It is disturbing to know that people have a problem with the notion that “all human life is precious and invaluable.” No doubt, we will see less brutally in this world when this is more universally accepted.

    • Niki

      Well, said.

  • docww

    It’s natural to have mixed feelings in this situation. Despite the heinous crimes he committed, it’s hard not to feel some form of sympathy for a young life that for all practical purposes is now over.

    Anger, sadness, sympathy, confusion–these are human emotions that are triggered in a healthy person faced with this type of situation.

    The courts will deal with the legal issues. Perhaps our religious beliefs are the best way to deal with the other emotions because they are too complex to understand in a rational manner.

    • Barry Kort

      I agree that there are some helpful theological insights to reckon here.

      But it also occurs to me that those traditional theological perspectives are fully consistent with modern scientific models of cognition, affect, and learning.

  • Abigail Baker

    I reserve my compassion for the victims. When he repents: expresses remorse, vows to change his ways and makes reparation to his victims then I will feel compassion for him. Not now.

  • Lawrence

    I guess we need to remember that he is full of evil and hatred.

    • Mokita Syzygy

      It is unclear how to remember a non-existent memory.

      • Lawrence

        Not sure how to remember? Is the memory of his horrific and evil acts already forgotten? Is the memory of the Boston Marathon “non-existent” for you?

        • Barry Kort

          That’s not the feature that requires a recollected narrative.

          You may have a narrative of Jahar’s psychological state of mind, but your fabricated narrative is not a demonstrated theory of mind, grounded in scientific evidence, analysis, and reasoning.

        • Mokita Syzygy

          That’s not the “memory” I’m talking about.

          What I’m talking about, Lawrence, is your fabricated narrative about the psychological state of mind of Jahar Tsarnaev.

          I retain no memory of any such haphazard theory of mind characterizing Jahar as “full of evil and hatred” as I have no basis for converting such a working hypothesis (plausible as it may seem to you) into a valid confirmed narrative, supported by reliable evidence, coherent expert analysis, and sound scientific reasoning.

  • Fellow Human

    I was feeling something very similar, though I don’t have children. Thank you so much for having the courage to speak true compassion, in a society so quick to judge and to read more into it. It’s difficult for many to reconcile compassion for the human with holding them responsible for the action. Also, we always want to believe we are so different from others who do “bad things”. Compassion is always a good thing. You add more love to the world.

  • brenda

    I felt the same way listening to the news friday morning.

  • Meghan R-L

    Yep, I’ve been torn, too, and have been checking myself for days, telling myself to stop fixating on his position as younger brother (this may be, among other things, a really interesting case study of the relevance of birth order and the power elder siblings can yield…) and instead to imagine he had set that bag down next to my own children. Why can’t I get there? Why can’t I fixate on the black and white image of the older Dzhokhar, sneering and posturing, rather than the sweet graduation photo and my own imagined picture of him, waking dazed in the hospital as if from a nightmare of his brother’s creation? Whatever reasoning tells us that this guy is a killer, for many of us, it won’t overcome our instinct for empathy for him the way it does with his brother, whom we easily despised from the start and for whom we shed not one tear when he was run over in the street. He’s Raskolnikov.

    • Expanded_Consciousness

      You lack empathy for the older brother. Your heart isn’t big enough.

      This little brother false narrative is disturbing. It has no basis in reality. Many brothers fight. Many brothers violently disagree. This is real life and not fiction. Go watch a movie if you want to fall in love with an image. Do not exploit this reality.

      • Meghan R-L

        Well, narrative is one way in which the mind makes meaning, in just the way that your accusing women on this site of being seduced by him or “in love” is the narrative you have created to explain our compassion. That “false narrative” is as disturbing to me as the “little brother narrative” is to you.

        I assume you’re being ironic about the empathy for the older brother, given your previous comments, and also about the size of my heart, since that is itself an age-old narrative metaphor…the heart organ as source or repository of love. But you are right to say I lack empathy for the older brother. I’m guessing mine isn’t the only heart out there that’s too small.

        • Expanded_Consciousness

          If he was 19 years old, 6 feet tall, fat, beady-eyed, shaved head, tattooed, and with missing teeth, we would not be hearing about all this compassion, references to the look in his photos, and little bother-innocent victim status. This is similar to people who want to save the cute but not the ugly animals. When you make meaning by writing a narrative, you have the responsibility to not write fiction into it. Do you really need to have the younger brother scream at you “I’m glad I killed the innocent American victims and the American 8 year-old boy, and I’d do it again in a second!” for you people to wake up? Indiscriminate, irresponsible compassion is worse than no compassion.

  • Sarah

    What I find most sad is that a young man who many described as having promise became completely derailed. Either he was a kind person at some point in life and became brainwashed and allowed the worst of humanity to act through him, or he was always a sociopath and fooled many. Either way, it’s hard not to feel sad for the complete corruption and waste of a life. So many people change the world for the better through sheer force of will. This young man destroyed lives in what seems like an offhand manner, completely surrendering to darkness. The truth of that is what makes me sad for him.

  • Antonella

    Thank you for putting in writing what I have struggled with since Friday, but I was afraid to express… I am the mother of a 8 years old son and a teenager son and my thoughts keep jumping from little Martin to Dzhokhar. I see two children. I feel guilty about it and it is so comforting to read that I am not alone.

  • Sympathy For The Devil

    OK. You’re a saint. Got it.

  • sarah

    I think the reasoning behind feeling maternal for this man is wrong headed. You can’t feel sorry for him as you would if your own son were in trouble. It’s not as though he’s a ten-year-old who broke a window or got into a fist fight. I think our natural inclination is to see someone cornered and feel empathy. But ponder what he was doing before he was hunted down and cornered. He killed a young police officer and took part, with his brother, in bragging about being the Boston bomber. Think of the little girl who lost her brother and her leg. I’d also like to add that if the motive for the bombings was in retaliation for American attacks abroad which has resulted in the loss of innocent lives, that doesn’t bar me from feeling horrified and angry at the loss of life here and in other countries. There’s no ambivalence. Wrong is wrong.

  • Eula Kozma

    I had some similar thoughts. I think it is perfectly normal to experience a range of emotions during a time like this. I thought the way the TV media covered the “man-hunt” was appalling. I heard one newcaster decribe Friday as a “fun night” after he was captured. Nothing about the entire week and on going situation was fun. I guess that is another topic entirely…

  • Rachel

    This article and its responses point to a basic truth about human beings: we are not simplistically “good” or “evil.” Even Tamerlan, currently being portrayed as a “bad guy,” is a tragic case.

    If you want to be inspired by the power of compassion, read this:

  • elewisg39

    There is something really disturbing about feeling any sort of sympathy for Tsarnaev. No child killer can get a pass.

    People lost both their legs to this man’s bombs…..where is the voiced sympathy
    Tiziana, go into the hospital and tell us how these victims are going to cope, keep a job, raise a family.

    Shame on NPR and WBUR for airing such displaced sympathy.
    After all Adolf Hitler had a mother, does that make him eligible for your sympathy

    • Barry Kort

      Did you know that one of the most salient causes of violence in the culture is the commonplace practice of shaming people?

      Here is a world-class researcher briefly explaining this important finding:

      James Gilligan on Shaming

      • belsnickel

        The kid is no Hester Prynne, bearing a scarlet letter. The fact is that he no compunction for his actions. He was back at UMASS Dartmouth partying like nothing happened. In short, he was shameless.

        • Barry Kort

          How do you know what his mindset is? Are you a psychiatric mind-reader who can psycho-analyze a total stranger by remote sensing?

          But more to the point, has it ever occurred to you that the prosecutors who have put away innocent people also have no remorse? How do you account for that?

          Some people commit violent acts outside the law, and seem to have no empathy for their victims, and some people commit violent acts under the color of law and similarly have no empathy for their victims.

          The only common factor is the apparent lack of remorse. Whether the act of violence is labeled as lawful or unlawful doesn’t appear to be a relevant factor.

  • zendegt

    It made tears come to my eyes to read this. I believe it is a manifestation of what is best in the human spirit to feel empathy even for someone who has done something so vile. I am not a religious person, but I do agree with the idea that we must always seek to understand and forgive the other, even if we also need to lock him up for the safety of all of us.
    Thanks for having the courage to share these feelings. :o)

  • Tina Welsh

    Feeling compassion is what sets us apart as being human. My heart breaks for the victims of the bombing but I also feel for him. I remember hearing an interview with a family who were their neighbors at one time and they had nothing but praise for the family. They talked about how helpful and polite the boys were and how they had conversations about religion and faith. Them being Muslims and the neighbors Christians, having dinner with each other and how they were shocked by what had happened.

    I will never be ashamed or made to feel that way by showing and feeling compassion for him or others. What he did was horrific, should be punished, will be punished but so sad an outcome for what should have been a successful American life.

    • Bob Rand

      As a society we have shown compassion for mass killers by creating a justice system. We longer longer practice vigilante justice. In less compassionate days the brothers would have been captured, wrapped in barbed wire, had gasoline poured over them and set afire.

      • Niki

        Not in Boston, Mr. Rand. Not ever.

  • tracyishome

    We worry and wonder about him because he could be anybody’s son. We in the good old USA bring up our children in a culture of violence. Violent games, movies and television programs from the age of two or three. The worst part is that this type of violence has replaced all of the life lessons and moral guidance that used to come from family time, but also from our television and movies. Are we really surprised when a handful of our children cannot handle this culture of violence? Or are we ashamed and worried, for all of our children even more than for Jahar.

  • BozToz

    Interesting that you weren’t “terrified” to think of your son as someone whom you think you know and then turns out to be the sort of person that has no compunctions about randomly destroying the lives of people he didn’t even know…

  • justMom

    Parents recognized that arrested naked boy was Tamerlan; younger brother did not had any weapon in the boat but the boat was shoot out. Video of suspects placing bags was not released. I would be doubtful as well if it were my kids. I feel sorry for his parentsreply

  • Roberta Hermosillo

    I don’t feel “worry”. Looking at the surviving bomber’s hard face and cocky strut in all the photos, the only thing I feel is anger. When they talk about sentencing him to the death penalty, it bothers me a little, strictly because of his age. But his punishment is not for me to decide. I worry about all the people who suffered such grievous injuries as a result of the actions of these two cowards. I worry about the heartbroken families of those who died. I worry about people of the Islamic faith who may be harassed or hated when they have done nothing wrong. I’m a mother too. I have no idea what my reaction would be to hear one of my children had committed such horrific crimes. This young man gets no compassion from me or anyone else I know.

  • Expanded_Consciousness

    And you expected him to be weak, guilty and remorseful. Pure fiction.

    “Source: Bombing suspect showed no fear or remorse during hospital hearing

    A badly wounded but awake Dzhokhar Tsarnaev showed little signs of fear or remorse during his hospital room court hearing earlier this week and his heart monitor didn’t register a blip when he was told he was facing the death penalty in the Boston Marathon bombing case, according to a source familiar with the events inside the hospital room when he was read his rights.”

    The information that agents got — including the disclosure Thursday that Tsarnaev and his brother had talked about driving to Times Square to set off more bombs — came during those sessions over the weekend.”

  • Martha Hopewell

    I, too, mother of a 19-year-old son, felt concern for him even in the midst of the tragedy he caused to others. I can’t fathom it. If I were his mother I would be heartbroken that his life has been ruined through his own doing, and utterly heartbroken that he caused such pain and suffering to others.

    • Bob Rand

      His mother should be happy we no longer practice vigilante justice or her son would have been ripped alive by a livid crowd foaming at the mouth to get their hands on her evil son. We’ll be compassionate to her son instead and for that she should be grateful.

  • Bob Rand

    The more I think about Tiziana’s view of the world the more I wish I too had a trust fund that would allow me to live in upscale Newton, MA, play tennis, and serve as a CEO for a non-profit. She writes about “poverty”? You’re kidding, right? Her view of the world reeks of political correctness and incredible naivete.

    WBUR please spend some time covering real stories that might shed some light on our pretender in the White House: the Gosnell trial, Fast and Furious, Obamacare taxes, high black unemployment, Monsanto, the Fed printing money from thin air, “workplace violence” at at Ft. Hood and the true story behind the Benghazi massacre..

    WBUR please spend more time on real stories and less on heartwarming garbage. Thank you very much and have a nice day.

    • Bob Rand

      Teach us Tiziana.

  • Bob Rand

    WBUR and NPR did not cover the Gosnell murders until 5 weeks into the trial. CBS has given a total of 12 seconds to the story.. Crickets at NBC and ABC. I wonder what Tiziana would say about a doctor snipping the necks of newborns. As a state senator in Illinois Obama voted three times not to restrict killing babies that were born alive after an induced abortion. What are Tiziana’s tennis playing, trust-funded, non-profit CEO’s views on her motherly instincts here?

    • Bob Rand

      Tiziana are you there? Teach us about empathy here. And while you are at it ask why NPR and WBUR waited 5 weeks into the trial before they mentioned this gruesome trial. Talk to us also about Obama’s stand on these murders.

      • Moulton

        Has Tiziana Deering not exemplified the model for you? Just as Tiziana has written a blog post on an issue she cares about, so too are you encouraged to write a blog post about issues you care about.

        If you need another example, you are welcome to review my blog, where I write about issues that I’m concerned about.

  • chillj

    Ma’am, I suspect if this suspect had a wart on his nose with a hair growing out of it, you would have felt far less concern. This is not about being humane, this is about being shallow. Serial rapists have historically been abetted by a public that equates pulchritude with innocence. You should feel guilty about your feelings.

  • Bob Rand

    a society we have shown compassion for mass killers by creating a
    justice system. We longer longer practice vigilante justice. In less
    compassionate days the Boston bombing brothers would have been captured,
    wrapped in barbed wire, had gasoline poured over them and set afire.

    • Niki

      Not in Boston, Mr. Rand. Not ever.

      • Bob Rand

        I said we no longer practice vigilante justice. Instead we now show compassion by the creation of a justice system.

        • Barry Kort

          I look forward to the day when we craft a system of Restorative Justice (rather than one of Retributive Justice).

  • Wilkins Micawber

    Oh I get it! This article is a parody of the clueless liberal living in their trust-fund world, as far away from the people they profess to sympathize with as possible.

  • Hootyman

    This article is about the best satire I’ve read since Jonathon Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”.

    This *is* a satire isn’t it?

    If not, then I think we need to make sure that any opinion a “trust-funded tennis playing CEO of a non-profit who writes about poverty” has is given its due weight and credence.

  • Niki

    I, too, am appreciative of Ms. Dearing’s article regarding her feelings about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev…….because this was also my reaction during that frightening, Friday manhunt.

    And I most certainly do not have a trust fund. In fact, are some of the other posters here sure that Ms. Dearing does?

    No matter, for her financial status (or anyone’s portfolio) has nothing to do with how we react to the world in which we exist……or at least it should not.

    And while my heart did (and does) go out to the maimed victims, their families, and the loved ones of the four persons who were killed…….I also thought about this 19 year old, young man.

    I thought about how alone and frightened and confused he might be feeling.

    I thought about how Marathon Monday’s terrible events might be beyond his comprehension.

    I thought this could be especially so, if he was in the thrall of his older brother’s anger and warped idea of existence.

    This is how I felt that Friday, but now I’m not so sure.

    In light of some of the “official” information which is slowly making its way to us, perhaps this 19 year old is, indeed, a monster. Perhaps he is some kind of sociopath.

    But in this country, a person is considered innocent until proven guilty.

    Ms. Dearing wrote about how she felt that unforgettable Friday. And I suspect, there were many of us who felt the same way that day.

    • Bob Rand

      Why were you frightened on Friday night? Were you holed up in your closet in the locked down area of Boston and didn’t have a weapon to protect yourself if things really got out of control? Or were you afraid that the FBI may have missed some of the clues about the bombers’ plans? The Second Amendment was INVENTED in Boston. For the most part people in Boston are not stupid.


    I am a male and as a father of a young man, I did have similar feelings during some instances of the ordeal. On a broader sense, I like to ask the psychologists/social scientists out there, do sympathy/empathy and similar feelings not show up in conservatives?

    • Bob Rand

      Conservatives have lived on this planet longer than Liberals and we are trying to teach empathy to those who are willing to take off the rose colored glasses.


        You want to elaborate on that? What is your definition of empathy?

        • Bob Rand

          My definition of empathy is closely related to justice.

          • KOVAINANBAN

            I think you need to understand first that revenge, justice and empathy are separate and distinct.

          • Guest

            How so?

          • Barry Kort

            See this explanation about revenge from James Gilligan.

          • Bob Rand

            How so? Please define each and teach me the differences.

          • KOVAINANBAN

            Go talk to your pastor.

          • Bob Rand

            Hey smarty pants. That’s no answer. Teach me about revenge, justice and empathy and how they differ in your rosy world.

          • Bob Rand

            Are you going to answer my question? Or retreat into your make-believe politically correct world?

          • Barry Kort

            Bob, please see this explanation from James Gilligan.

  • carfash

    When anyone commits any horrific crime or even the teeniest social faux pas, shouldn’t we ask why and how did this create an escalation to get to this state? Considering his growing up in war-torn areas, people are not unscathed with this. In our ordinary lives, many slights, real or imagined create inner conflicts, which then can cause trajectories toward malicious thoughts and actions. Think of the way we gossip, push people out of our group, create categories of who we will and won’t associate with and even our political system of Democrats/Republicans fighting one another and creating insidious innuendos on each other…all of this has a payback. My reaction is curiosity. How did this happen to this individual to where he felt it OK to do something like this?

    • Bob Rand

      These brothers missed a few spankings when growing up.

  • Bessie

    Do you suppose the constant showing of a picture of him as a sweet-looking 10-year-old had anything to do with this fairly common reaction (which I shared). I’d like to think we’d feel compassion for any young person, or any perpetrator, in some way, but still it is that image that recurs.

  • paulagoldman20

    I hope that this young man is NOT executed but is allowed to live out his life in solitary confinement and total silence. His miserable, criminal mother has lots of excuses for him, including “he was framed by the FBI”. May his life be long and silent in a very small cell with only a toilet and sink for furnishings. Feed this vicious monster well. Perhaps he will tell who funded this atrocity.

    • Bob Rand


      • Barry Kort

        Walking on eggshells is not a healthy practice.

  • CoastRanger

    For a dose of reality, try reading what this rat’s actual mother “feels”:

    “My oldest son is killed, so I don’t care. I don’t care if my youngest
    son is going to be killed today. . . . I don’t care if I am going to get
    killed, too . . . and I will say Allahu Akbar!”

    • Bob Rand

      I hope none of the bleeding heart liberals here begin to weep uncontrollably. Be grateful her sons were not captured by a livid crowd, wrapped in barbed wire, had gasoline poured on them and set afire.

  • Rod

    Thanks for this reflection. I’m a dad. My son is a college student, and lives in Allston with four room mates. He’s always been popular, a great student, and in high school, rebellious. I adore him, and I can’t imagine the depth of my fear and sorrow if he were ever in a similar position. Motherly instincts aren’t confined to moms. BTW, thanks for the proper usage of “further” in your title. I cringe every time I hear “further” used in relation to distance. (Shall we walk a bit farther and discuss the issue further?)

  • Babz

    I was so relieved to read this post. I, too, felt compassion for him, and felt somehow that I was wrong in doing so in light of the pain he and his brother caused. But maybe that’s what compassion is – it’s for all of us – flawed human beings that we are.

    • Bob Rand

      We are showing the surviving bomber compassion by providing medical help, food, etc. We are also showing him compassion by keeping him safe from livid people.

      • Barry Kort

        That’s showing wisdom more than compassion. When confronted with foolish thoughts, ideas, or feelings, we don’t empathize, mirror, reify, or re-enact them. Rather we do the opposite which is to exemplify wisdom.

  • pamilton

    Dear Tizinia,

    Thank you. I was so relieved to read your story. Your words echoed my feelings exactly. I worried for the 19 year old and believed too that he had been manipulated by his older brother. But… simultaneously thinking ‘what is wrong with me?’ How can I feel sadness for someone who caused such grief? But like you, I am a mother with a son, and daughters and to imagine any one of them terrified, bleeding and vulnerable, would kill me too. As I reread your article, I realize my feelings stem from the golden rule. As naive as it sounds, I believe and have always told my children, that If more people thought about this rule, before speaking or acting, the world really could be a better place.

    Thank you for having the courage to put your feelings in writing. Without it, I would have kept mine to myself.

  • Isobel

    This is the first piece of writing I’ve seen since April 15 that articulated my own feelings. Not as a parent–I don’t have children, though I have godchildren who lost mothers–but as teacher, an adult, citizen of a city whose customary grumpy aggression I feared would be given free rein by this shocking crime. I want back the city I moved to out of love for it 40 years ago, and this piece, whatever the power or status of its author (attacked below by someone whose anger got the best of him), makes me feel it may be possible. This, and last Sunday’s impromptu memorial performance by 30 area choruses of Brahms Requiem at MIT. No one is asking to be admired for their conflicted empathy with the suspect, but many of us are relieved not to have to feel crazy and isolated in the face of the dominant response of anger and defiance–the Vice-President ranting about “jihadists” with zero evidence, at the funeral of a man whose killer is not yet known. Thank you.

  • Karen Solstad

    Thank you- It was/is a feeling many of us struggled with.

  • Bob Rand

    Where was Tiziana’s anguish, empathy, sorrow for the babies that had their spinal cords snipped by Dr. Kermit Gosnell? Does Tiziana know that WBUR and NPR waited 5 weeks before reporting on the trial? CBS gave it 12 seconds. Crickets at NBC and ABC. This was no ordinary trial – it was for a record setting mass murderer. Does Tiziana know that as a state senator Obama voted three times not to restrict killing newborns that survived an induced abortion? Does Tiziana know that Barbara Boxer feels that a newborn has no Constitutional rights until it is home with its family? Direct your privileged, trust-funded, tennis playing, non-profit CEO instincts and write about some real world emotions and a president who asked God to bless Planned Parenthood last week.


      In addition to these rantings, hope you did something to help the victims of this horrific act.

      • Bob Rand

        I paid my taxes to assure that our justice system remains in place.

      • Bob Rand

        Did you hear anything on NPR about the Gosnell trial or do you prefer to live smugly in your own rosy world?

  • dgroom

    Yes – thank you for your courage to put it in writing.

    • Bob Rand


      • Barry Kort

        It takes courage to honestly disclose one’s true inner feelings and thoughts, especially if they characterize the darker side of our souls.

  • maraith

    I’m curious why you identify with mothers in Belmont and Cambridge. Not Watertown? Not Boston? Why are you so different from them? Hmmm.

    • Bob Rand

      Tiziana identifies only with others who feel superior to those that express themselves in ways that don’t pass politically correct tests.

  • Mmecadenza

    I had the same reaction. I did share it with my 33 year-old daughter, who, to my surprise, had little sympathy for Dzhokhar. I was very moved by the friends from Cambridge Rindge & Latin who spoke of him so warmly. Many others also gave an impression that this was a sweet young man. I feel that we still don’t know how he has reflected on his horrible crime.

  • LeighandKrisy

    I’m sorry; is there some reason Bob Rand finds it necessary or appropriate to dominate this entire message board? You’ve made your point- move on please.

    • Bob Rand

      What’s your point?

  • Laurie Ferhani

    Whew, my thoughts exactly…I lost sleep….and wondered how cruel it is for someone to be recruited for doing evil…..especially a big brother and possibly mother…..they are supposed to be looking out for the teen’s best interest….he was born to a wacko family….and not strong enough to report them….

  • Jeff Wilson

    It is nice to see your compassion has survived the terrorist attack.

  • Geoff Dutton

    You can attack Ms. Dearing all you want for her words, but please leave her lifestyle out of it. At least she has some humanity that extends beyond primitive feelings of retribution. Where is the humanity of people who want to avenge these or other attacks on innocents by exercising the death penalty, sending in troops to teach “them” a lesson, or scapegoating Muslims or immigrants?

    • Bob Rand

      Tiziana is so much better than us and we are grateful to have her in our midst. Where was she when Dr. Kermit Gosnell was on trial for snipping the spinal cords of newborns? Must have been playing tennis in Newton before heading into her office to play CEO in her non-profit world.

  • John

    There is a small part in many of us that feels the same way. It’s the part that looks for good in everyone. It’s the part that sees a young man and can only imagine that something horrible must have happened to him to lead him, or anyone, into the sort of darkness that would make killing and maiming innocent people acceptable and turn a massacre into a seemingly casual event.

    That we can have those feelings, yet still be appalled, disgusted, and horrified by the monstrous actions committed by this young man, is part of what makes us human. Our empathy is a precious gift and one that we should not dismiss. For it is this same emotion that also allows us to understand, in some small way, the suffering rained upon the victims of the bombing and their families.

  • J__o__h__n

    I don’t feel any compassion towards this murderer. He planned to continue to New York to kill more people so he wasn’t even remorseful. I oppose the death penalty and hope he rots in jail for decades.

  • middleground

    Wow – sweet comments here. People can feel any way they want about this guy; life experience make a whole range of emotions and responses valid. But voicing hostility and derision towards other people because they don’t agree with you… seems pretty small.

    Also – if you’re going to whine about WBUR for not covering “more important” world news (in an editorial blog?) coming back over the course of days, posting dozens of combative comments towards people who don’t share your point of view doesn’t really bolster your argument that this editorial is not worthy of interest, or that your time is worth enough to warrant your opinion as valid.

  • saiddy

    I couldn’t read beyond, “All in all, I’m guessing my experience was similar to most parents in Newton, Belmont or Cambridge”

  • sjw81

    a mothers sympathy? even Hitler had a mother. Recognize evil for what it is, evil. No matter that its the face of a 19 year old.” I think to place a bomb like that, around kids, blow people up and then go back to your dorm room and back to school for two days… that’s just crazy.” No , shooting kindergarten kids or movie viewers is crazy, placing a bomb on purpose next to kids then going back to your dorm room to smoke weed, that is pure evil. muslim radical evil.

  • Danielle G

    WHAT??? I cannot believe what I’m reading, neither the article nor most of the comments. I am a mother. I am a wife, daughter, cousin, friend, co-worker, and a peace-loving citizen of the universe. And I don’t have an ounce of sorrow for either one of these criminals, not as young as he was, or as terrified, bleeding and vulnerable as you saw him.

    I feel sorry for: the victims, the families of the victims, the wounded, the people who will never walk on their own limbs, the people who are now deaf, the people who saw things more common to a battlefield than to Boylston Street, the people who will never come to Boston now, and the thousands of honest, hard working, law-abiding, non-terrorist foreigners who have come to this country to make a new start and will now have to deal with whispers and glances, covert prejudice or outright discrimination because of the crime these two brothers dared commit.

  • Dan

    Call me old fashion but I don’t have any sympathy. Not after what he did. Cruel beyond words.

  • Kate

    I am having a hard time with this. It reminds me of when people sympathize with perpetrators of rape.

  • Burgvilla

    We were all created with different gifts. A gift of compassion is among them. Having compassion is human. I too, struggled with heartbreaking feelings for the alleged #2 bomber. It is because I am human, he is human, troubled maybe, but human none the less.

    I also am a parent of a 15 year old and my son is quiet, sweet, and easily persuaded. His father was absent much of his younger years and he struggles with finding his identity and how he fits into this world as a young man. I can see a very strong personailty slither his or her way into his heart and mind leading to a manipulation of his beliefs and perception of right and wrong. I pray this never happens, but we cannot control who is introduced into the lives of our children.

    All that said, as much as my heart breaks at the idea of this young man, assuming he is the young man portrayed by classmates and teachers, allegedly being sucked into such a devastating horrific act, we cannot over look the fact that he does not appear to be under duress in the various images released in the moment prior to the detonation of the bombs.
    It is a struggle, I know how I should be feeling on behalf of the victims and survivors of the Boston Marathon and I do feel this way. I cried just like much of the nation had. The fact remains, as much as I dislike it, my heart also aches for the young man accused of carrying out this tragedy. We are human, we were made to have compassion for all life.

  • Elaine Dunn

    The whole thing just makes me sad. My daughter was down in Boston with all the first responders. She is an Iraqi war veteran. She texted me late that first night because she knew how frantic I was. “Mom it’s awful. Just like the fire fights in Iraq”. All those people’s lives are destroyed. She’s a former marine. She never express outrage. She is “sad” like her Mom.

  • Joanne Barker

    I felt the same way. It’s confusing to me but I also believe that as adults, we have the capacity to try to understand what happened to this kid so maybe we can prevent it from happening again.

  • incredulous

    Barry Kort – your HAL2000 affect really scares me. Keep up the good work at the MIT Media Lab while the rest of us process this tragedy on a more visceral, human level sans sympathy for suspect #2.

    • Barry Kort

      It’s a divide of biblical proportions, isn’t it? How shall we reckon those whom we find scary, frightening, or intimidating? Shall we designate them as foes to be defeated? Shall we treat them as lost souls to be saved? Shall we treat them as unfamiliar characters on a Shakespearean stage or Greek Theater?

      One treatment is iatrogenic, spreading the cancer of antipathy, antagonism, and violence to a wider audience. One treatment is therapeutic. And one treatment is educational.

      I eschew the first. I lack the insight, power, technique, opportunity, or authority to perform the second. But perhaps we can learn something worthwhile from these recurring tragedies. And that’s where I am in this baffleplexing opera.

  • incredulous

    Bob Rand may be one of the few sane posters in this thread.

  • Sheila Cama

    Those of us who felt compassion for this young man have known intuitively that something is wrong with the entire story. Our universal humanity and spirituality, which is greater than any attempt to manipulate the truth communicates this to us in the feeling of a strange empathy towards this young man.

    Take for example this:

    Dzokhar was carrying a light gray-white back pack. BUT the bag by the railing shown leaning against the the railing is not this light gray-white back pack. It is a black back pack with about 2 % or so Gray. Dzokhar’s bag was ALL light gray-white with say 1 % black. This can be clearly seen in the photograph. Even making an allowance for camera angle and light variations, this bag is still a black bag with some grayish trimmings. This bag can even further be ascertained to NOT be Dzokhar’s bag because there are other items in this photograph, several nearby and one even directly close to it which are tan, white or whitish gray and they all show up as same, even when “depth” is taken into account.

    This is not the back pack that Dzokhar was carrying. Just isn’t.

    Check it out.

    • belsnickel

      Sheila – thanks for the sleuthing and psycho analysis here, but I don’t see the grassy knoll nor the book repository in this shot.

  • Mukhlisah

    You can say alleged all you want but you along with all the other arm chair experts have already condemned him. Obvious by this post. How can you in the same paragraph say that he is alleged to have committed the crimes and then say over and over and over “what he did”, “what they did”, to place a bomb then go back to his life – implying you know he did it. This post is ubsurd.

  • Dania

    I think not having concern for him would be more of a reason to worry for us as a society, its sickening how quickly people can irrationally turn to hatred and dehumanize a person…this is should be viewed as more of a tragic story then anything…its devestating for everyone to see someone with such a bright future do something so horrific…really sad…I cannot hate but only pity him.

  • Dan

    Tracyishome, so you think the fact that he didn’t have a gun to “protect himself” was a bad thing? What do you think such “protection” it would have provided this “kid” who was just hurling bombs in a residential area less than 24 hours prior? Such a gun would have been used to shoot back at and kill local police and possibly residents. You are all mixed up.

  • Nandru

    Thank you for this Tiziana. As a Cambridge resident I’ve been experiencing the same concerns for both the nineteen year old and for those whose lives he and his bother have changed forever. I don’t see any conflict in feeling empathy for both. I think also I feel horrified at the future awaiting this nineteen year old. Locked in a maximum security grey cement block for 23 hours a day, no human contact, food delivered through a slot in the solid steel door, for the rest of his long life. Wouldn’t true justice be to restore and rehabilitate a nineteen year old? If life imprisionment is the appropriate sentence then restoration within that sentence could allow opportunities for some goodness to come out of so much tragedy. Isn’t solitary confinement not justice but revenge?

    I feel very comforted in knowing so many in our community share these feelings.

  • respect-the-victims

    I was in disbelief that this story was on the radio in Boston today,
    not 10 days after his capture. I can’t think of a way to describe it
    other than it disgusted me.

    I definitely understand that you were puzzled by the brief sympathy
    that you interpreted as being an instinctual response, and that it
    raised questions you thought were worthy of discussion. You were trying
    to say that at some point sympathy comes into play, I get that. However,
    (and this goes to everyone that empathized with the author) the next
    time you feel sympathy for someone that puts a bomb in a backpack and
    places it next to innocent people, ask yourself, very carefully, if you
    would still have that sympathy had it been your son, or mother, or
    sister, brother, friend, that was next to the backpack.

    Then the next time you feel sympathy for someone that ambushes and
    kills a police officer, or is part of such a crime, ask yourself, very
    carefully, if you would still have that sympathy had it been your son,
    brother, sister, father, on duty that night, who goes to work every day
    to serve and protect.

    Oh and don’t forget, the next time you feel sympathy for someone that
    thinks a fun Thursday night would be to drive to New York and blow
    people up… you get the point.

    Do everyone else a favor next time and just think really hard and
    picture that scenario. Then show a little respect and don’t bring it up
    until much more time has passed, (maybe give some time for the victims
    to get out of the hospital and rehab first).

    • Barry Kort

      I can sympathize with your feelings, but I don’t empathize with them.

  • Jackie

    I first read your article and acknowledged your compassion but then heard the news that it was THEIR mother (and not their father) who had become a radicalized Islamist and had taken her elder son with her. As the newer information makes more clear the fact that it was their MOTHER who seems to have hated America and was the major negative influence on her sons, I wonder if you are reconsidering your feelings?

    Moving to a new society is never easy (I’ve done it twice) but it doesn’t justify injuring others if it doesn’t work out for you. My sympathies are over

  • RB

    I think of myself as fairly liberal, but I really feel absolutely no sympathy for him. I think its totally misguided. I’m all for him having a fair trial and its seems his government appointed defense team is top notch, but he’s an alleged terrorist who filled a bomb with nails and ball bearings, placed it next to an 8-year old boy and his sister, and detonated it. If I ever start to feel sympathy, I think of the families forever destroyed by him and the lives ended. He’s not a kid, he’s an adult. And he chose to do what he did. Its total speculation to say he was “brainwashed” by his brother and his family abandoned him. He chose his path. He bears the responsibility and consequences for it. Its not like he was DUI and accidently killed a child. If he did that and expressed remorse, I would probably feel sympathy for him. But, he exploded a weapon of mass destruction and as far as I know expressed no remorse. And he threw homemade bombs at police officers. It seems from the comments that alot of sympathy is projecting emotions on him (he must have been terrified, he must have felt all alone, he was so thin, I wanted to give him a cheeseburger). Maybe he is glad he did what he did and would do it again. Would you still feel sympathy? And instead of imagining that it was your 19 year old in his position, imagine it was your 8-year old in front of the bomb he placed on the ground.

    • Barry Kort

      Tomorrow morning we will learn the cause of death of the older brother, Tamerlan. Presumably we’ll learn if he died of gunfire or from being run over by his younger brother. I wonder whether we will observe expressions of remorse or expressions of schadenfreude, depending on the coroner’s report.

      • RB

        So indeed he died from both gunfire and being run over. So, alas, the lesson is not so clear. Now that we know I wonder if we will observe expressions of Gleichgültigkeit. For I don’t really care how he died. I don’t feel remorse or pleasure, as you suggest. I still feel no sympathy for him or his brother.

  • Guest

    Thanks for writing this piece. The situation between Dzhokhar and Tammerlan reminded me of a book I read called “The Bookseller of Kabul” which mostly chronicles the life of a typical Muslim family in Afghanistan. If most Muslim families share the same dynamic (and I suspect they might)–it’s that the eldest brother wields a lot of power in the family. In the book, the eldest brother only had to obey the father. I could be wrong, though, but I suspect Tammerlan was practically a father figure to Dzhokhar while their father was in Dagestan.

  • Paul Hartnett

    Ok so someone does something horrific and it is right to feel compassion for him or her if they are bleeding —- that is not what I mean by compassion but really it is more like unwarranted identification with an evil and violent criminal and murderer. I am against torture but this murderer does deserve a bit or pain in return for the murder and evil he did.

    • Barry Kort

      The scientific research indicates that such a treatment is iatrogenic and hence contra-indicated.

  • Susie Trevino

    Omg! U wrote EXACTLY what I as a parent has been going thru. THANK U!!!!!!