When I saw today’s Daily Prompt, Stranger, from Michelle W., I could not help but think of the two men (one is practically a boy!), who are purported to be responsible for the heinous crime of bombing the Boston Marathon last week. I’m sure most of you know them by now.
I poured through various reports and interviews and I read comments from personal acquaintances or friends of Dzhokhar, and it appears he is completely “normal,” meaning, he speaks English well, he dressed and carried himself just like any youth around him, and by all intents and purposes, he has assimilated into the society he moved around in. “He is us. He is Cambridge.” One significant comment made by older brother, Tamerlan’s boxing coach is that Dzhokhar is like “a puppy dog, following his older brother.”
Information about Tamerlan, now deceased, seems to paint a picture of someone who tended more towards violence, as evidenced by his girlfriend calling 9-1-1 after he assaulted her or by his linked to the 2011 triple murder in Waltham, MA. One of the victims was supposedly his best friend, or his only American friend, he claimed. He delved into Islam only in the recent 3 years. Some relatives have expressed their concern over his embrace of Islamic extremism, but his father had supposedly told the relatives to stay out of it. It is interesting that his father has been quoted as being dismissive of the girlfriend’s assault too and derided that it caused the delay of his son’s application for US citizenship.
What would push someone like this to become a stranger in his own home? What happened to Tamerlan in the 10 years that he has lived in the United States? Certainly, the explosion of photos of him seem to show that he has “a Life” here. And what would so disconnect him from his peers or the society he moved in that would lend him vulnerable to parties with so much hatred for the very place his family sought refuge? Where he had been receiving financial aid from up until 2012? Is it a sense of being disconnected? Isolated? Or perhaps, disillusionment that the American Dream may be a myth?
Let’s not forget that the United States is a land of immigrants. With the exception of the North American Indian tribes and many native tribes along the Mexican border, just about everyone originated from somewhere else in the globe. There have been waves of migration that have populated this country, all the way from (and even earlier than) the Mayflower (1600’s). It’s what has made the US what it is. But what is it that impedes assimilation of newcomers?
Did the Tsarnaev family come from such a violent life that their relocation could not change the hyper-alert distrusting mindset that is not uncommon among those from war-torn lands? Was there something in their culture and tradition that prevented their assimilation? Or their age when they came here? Certainly, it appears that Dzhokhar had successfully assimilated judging from what his friends said of him or their shock at what he had been witnessed to have participated in. He was only 8 years old when he came. And so, he has spent his formative years adapting to his environment. In spite of this, it appears his brother’s influence over him prevailed.
What about those of us who have lived here? Especially those who have had a few generations of family in the country? How good are we at welcoming newcomers? Or making them feel included? Are the integration problems societal or more personal to this family?
My family had emigrated to Canada in the 80’s. We married, had our child in Toronto. By the late 90’s we moved to California. It is now our home. We have made it a point early on to teach our child our native language and for her to know her heritage. However, we did not allow her to only socialize within our ethnic group. In fact, we went out of our way to provide her a good representation of American society. We encouraged friendships with people from different walks of life. In so doing, we hoped to arm her with the ability to adapt, to accommodate, to be mindful of differences while welcoming diversity. We did not want her to be a stranger in her own country.
But it takes parents (or parental figures) and a community to foster this actively and deliberately. It takes a different mindset from the immigrant parties to want to embrace their new home and for the inhabitant parties to want to receive them beyond the paperwork and the rubber-stamping.
As for the American dream? Life is what we make it to be.
P.S. As the story unfolds about these two brothers and the events that led them to April 15, 2013, I’m sure we will learn more. We can only hope we will understand.
- Who is Tamerlan Tsarnaev? (foreignpolicy.com)
- Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were refugees from brutal Chechen conflict – The Washington Post (washingtonpost.com)
- Terrific… Tamerlan Tsarnaev Was on Welfare – So Was His Parents (thegatewaypundit.com)
- Friend ‘brainwashed’ bombing suspect, uncle says (kdvr.com)
- America’s Assimilation System Is Broken (nationalreview.com)
- Let’s not forget about immigrant assimilation (thehill.com)
- Assimilating immigrants into the U.S.: New citizens view America differently (washingtontimes.com)
- Boston bombing suspects wanted to fit in, friends say – Reuters (reuters.com)
- Special report: The radicalization of Tamerlan Tsarnaev (thegazette.com)