Jeff Smith noon, March 8
- Community Blog
An Open Letter to Zubeidat Tsarnaeva
Dear Mrs. Tsarnaeva:
If you and your family would allow me a moment of your time, I believe that I know my fellow Americans well enough by now to tell you that we offer our sincere condolences for the pain which you and your family are suffering at this moment in time, and that we do not hold you responsible for any other person’s actions. I must tell you, also, however, that America did not take your kids away.
You and your husband, their father, brought them here to secure for them a better life than that they’d have lived (if they’d have lived) in a war zone made so through no fault of your own. And it was a terrific decision. By all accounts, your sons were happy here and were even thriving in their educational and sporting endeavors. You might have even had an American Olympian on your hands. If not for religious extremists-turned-terrorist who played into a vulnerable young mind searching for answers to questions which most of us have asked from time to time in our lives, especially in our youth, but are usually allowed to find the answers to on our own and/or in conjunction with secular, social and/or moderate (or at least, not murderous) religious organizations and movements without the interference and the influence of zealots seeking conscripts. And for that, as well, believe me, we are all very sorry.
But America didn’t take your kids away. Religious extremists took your kids away, just as they’ve been taking kids away from parents and families and friends for thousands of years. And they didn’t do it to you, alone. They did it to us, too, by taking away from all of us two young men who might have otherwise done something terrific (or even “merely” decent) during their lives for their families and friends and their nations and peoples, but who instead were convinced by religious extremists that they should bring further death and destruction (thus far, at any rate) to a world that already has far too much of both. [I say “thus far” because it’s still possible for 19 yr old Dzhokhar to do something meaningful with his life if he would use it to share with others (especially young people around the world) what is his clearly unique experience with and understanding of and perspective as to how a teenager described by a high school friend as “a walking angel” can possibly turn murderous in such a short period of time -- a matter of merely months -- under the influence of someone who was, himself, so recently so “normal” in outlook and disposition, yet who both fell under the spell of religious extremists and “turned terrorist” after having started out in moderate, modest and humble surroundings.]
And so, again, America did not take those kids away from you. Or from us. Nor did Islam. Nor did religion. Those kids and their minds and their spirits and their lives and the minds and the spirits and the health and the lives of the victims of the bombings and the shootings were taken away by religious extremists who, unless and until we all face that fact and try to do something about that, specifically, will (whatever the religion) continue to do what they've been doing since the first religious extremist hooked his first victim: get some soul-searcher somewhere to do something horrific just often enough to continue to spread their gospels of fear and anger and hatred as vendetta against those who believe neither exactly nor as rigidly as they do.
And while we can never vanquish every extremist or wipe out extremism itself in its myriad forms, I do believe that, together, we can, by listening and learning and teaching and talking and watching and listening and learning and teaching and talking and watching as much as we can, fight the REAL enemy in this regard -- religious extremism -- and I further believe that, if we do, we WILL save some kids somewhere from likewise being taken away by them, and we WILL save their lives as well as the lives of those who would otherwise fall victim to the bullets and the bombs which, in reality, are all the extremists have to offer their followers and to give to the world at large.
We will never identify whom we’ve saved or what we’ve prevented, because of course we can’t see who didn’t do what they otherwise would have done today if not for preventive steps we took yesterday; but we do know, don’t we, that if we listen and learn and teach and talk and watch and listen and learn and teach, etc., as much as we can as often as we can from here on in, insofar as religious extremism and extremists are concerned, we do know that we will prevent them from taking at least some of the other contented-yet-questioning kids out there (and here) in order to make terrorists out of them, and we will prevent other mothers and fathers and families and nations from enduring the grief with which so many suffer today as a result of religious and other extremists and their influence -- don’t we?
I close, Mrs. Tsarnaeva, by stating with all sincerity and with genuine sadness that I honestly and truly regret the losses which you and your family have suffered at the hands of religious extremists as I regret so very deeply the losses of those who fell victim directly to the bombs and the bullets. I hope with all my heart that those who are in need of and who search and who yearn for comfort and for healing and for peace, will find it; and I hope that you and the members of your family will come to accept the truth of the matter as it is, as painful as it is, and that, by doing so, you will find not merely a necessary acceptance but a genuine measure of peace with what has transpired. And I invite you and your family, and most especially your son, Dzhokhar, to join and to work with the rest of us who likewise believe, as I'm comfortable suggesting you do, that there is and will always be suffering aplenty in the world without the further measure of it which is inflicted upon us by religious extremists and their nationalistic and political brethren; and that we can, and that we should, and that we must -- not only for ourselves but for those who will one day be the grandchildren of people such as yourself and your husband -- work together and share our knowledge and our strength in order to limit, as much as possible, the damage done to our youth and to our health and our lives and our nations and our world by extremists who care nothing for our youth or our health or our lives or our nations or our world, but care only for their own self-aggrandizement, and who are, even at this very moment in time as I write this and again at that moment in time as you read it, leaving us to clean up the blood while they simply move on to find somebody else to do their dirty deeds.
Please, Mrs. Tsarnaeva, don't join them. Join and work with us.