Category Archives: understanding terroists

A Very Unusual Terrorist


Dshokhar Tsarnaev is the most mind-boggling terrorist we have met so far. He is a sort of split personality. He was not a loner. He had plenty of friends; friends so loyal that it looks like they tried to hide evidence for him. He is possibly quite a charismatic young man given the comments of his peers. He could be quite intelligent and just “playing” us, or he could really be sort of flaky. He seems to have bombed the Boston Marathon as kind of a lark, but I don’t believe anyone would do that.

College students do have a tendency to tune in to ideologies and to be somewhat passionate and revolutionary, but he doesn’t seem like he was that kind of college student. He liked to party, he smoked marijuana, and he drank. Girls liked him. He had just become an American citizen. Why would he do that if he hated America? Did it allow him more freedom to buy materials for building bombs? Did it take eyes away from his brother’s transformation? Can it be simply attributed to inertia? He came to America with his family for asylum from a war-torn nation. Were the seeds of war already implanted in these two brothers?  Can you love an adopted nation as much as you love your native land?

There is a psychological disorder known as “adult adjustment reaction”. It comes into play just as a young person is trying to choose the identity they will pursue as an adult. Some people just know what their adult identity will be, although that role may change at a later time. Others, despite plenty of role playing as children don’t find making a choice quite as easy. Perhaps when these brothers arrived at that threshold into life as an adult their love of their birth land and that little seed of war were sparks which were then encouraged by their explorations of Islam and radical Islam on the internet to become a full-fledged fire (although it doesn’t sound like Dshokhar was as comfortably established in this choice as was his brother and perhaps his mother).

What terrorist leaves a bomb, kills people, and then goes back to college? I don’t get it, we don’t get it. I guess we believed that if we apprehended Dshokhar alive we would get answers to all these mysterious questions, but that may not happen. If you want to be the kind of adult who has a cause and who fights heroically for that cause it is possible that America is coming up a bit short in offering heroic roles to our young men. This might also help explain the “gangster” scenario playing out in our cities. What heroic roles can we offer young men that would help build our culture, not destroy it?

How are the psychologists and sociologist explaining this one? This is a mystery we would all like to solve because it might give us a key to a whole new breed of DIY terrorists.

An article on page one of the Sunday New York Times on May 5, 2013 might interest you if you want more on this subject.

You also might want to go to the CNN website and see if there is a video of Candy Crowley from The State of the Union on that same Sunday, May 05, 2013. She interviewed a panel of experts, many with connections to Islam, who discussed what might drive a young Muslim to radicalize and how the Muslim community in America might be able to help.