April 20th, 2013 / 1:12 pm

The Brothers Tsarnaev

brosWhile it may seem relevant that Chechnya is auspiciously sandwiched between Russia and the Middle East — exhuming the dormant winds of the Cold War, and the current conflict with Islamic extremism — the Tsarnaev brothers, regardless of how perceived their exile was, acted as Americans; that is, with a kind of free volition this country violently preserves. To simply call them assholes is somehow to dishonor their victims, many of them now amputees whose incomplete image in the mirror every morning will remind them forever of the blast, whose unexplained birth out of nowhere does well to implicate the universe itself. Time will tell how politically motivated this act was — though one doesn’t imagine our young Dzhokhar being the most cooperative, or coherent — hence categorized into either the ideological camp of Ted Kaczynski/Tim McVeigh, or the, sadly, more senseless camp of Columbine/Sandyhook, whose executors are getting younger and younger, and better armed.

David Remnick’s piece (from which this illustration and title is unabashedly taken) in the New Yorker is vulnerably sympathetic to the Tsarnaev family, a liberal impulse which is needed, should one brave the harsher waters of the more “patriotic” sentiment i.e. that we should just bomb “them,” whoever they are (just when you thought the postmodern “Other” was dead). That a white male has taken the throne of the Other may launch us into a new era. Not colored, or queer, or part of some thesis, mush less exotic, he is simply another one of the ever expanding “us” lost in the fold of America, whose race is ostensibly raceless, and whose nationality is a slow and steady reduction of endless immigrations. The idea is rather genius. A country for all, though it often seems like we’ve stopped earning this.

Not since the Revolutionary War — with the exception of Pearl Harbor and 9/11, both quickly mythologized, as if to eagerly render them irrelevant — has foreign conflict breached American soil. Truman’s Hiroshima and Bush’s Afghanistan were respective responses, the former’s flattening sadly more effective. War for us is cordoned off as an abstraction of what happens “over there,” bestowing the general populace a bloodless, though vehement, discourse about its many possible meaning(s) from behind televisions and computers. The Boston explosions simultaneously remind us of two somewhat contradictory things: that there will always be insane, strangely entitled, people (usually white men, or boys) who kill for no reason at all, pointing at in inward pathos; or, more formidably, that a spreading global war, whose disenfranchised have less and less to live for, can always permeate our borders. The easy allusions to Syria or Gaza, frankly, scare the shit out of me, and I think all of us. As for the Tsarnaev brothers (one notes the eerie invocation of the Karamozov brothers), their patricide may be indirectly directed at our founding fathers: brave, violent, and tired men, who likewise came to America to escape a troublesome place.


  1. cd

      One of the best-written and most compassionate statements about the events of the past week that I’ve thus far read. Thanks so much Jimmy.

  2. mimi

      re: ‘foreign conflict’

      as i understand it, the older brother was denied US citizenship about a year ago

      the younger brother is a naturalized US citizen

  3. Michael Martin

      I don’t get it, what about this has to do with foreign relations besides the fact that they were from another country. It is possible to be an American and feel the same feelings these gentlemen felt. Country of origin, in some circumstances, has no bearing. “It’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at” – Jay Z

  4. A D Jameson

      I fear people will hurry to make these guys foreign, other. What happened to globalism, I wonder?

  5. deadgod

      (usually white men, or boys)

      Where’s the Oelbaum Derangement Syndrome crowd?

  6. A D Jameson

      I know I’m severely offended.

  7. deadgod

      You’re probably the insane, strangely entitled white man, or boy, raping and murdering nuns in Tibet.

  8. A D Jameson

      Nah, I’m ordering drone strikes from the comfort of my Logan Square apartment.