Tonawanda News

Columns

April 21, 2013

DUVALL: As Bartlet said, 'they weren't born like this'

Tonawanda News — Like millions of Americans, I breathed a sigh of relief Friday night when the second suspect in Monday’s bombing of the Boston Marathon was located — alive — and taken into custody.

Too often in these cases those who grieve the loss of a loved one don’t get the answers they deserve about why it all happened.

A word of caution, though, for those wanting answers: They almost never satisfy our desire to understand what happened. By their very nature, irrational actions defy a rational analysis. Timothy McVeigh taught us that much, at least.

Still, I’m as curious as anyone to hear what this young man has to say for himself. To hear his friends speak so glowingly makes it difficult to square his actions with his reputation.

And that led me to recall a scene from my favorite television show of all time, “The West Wing.” Fictional President Josiah Bartlet is confronted with a horrific college campus bombing perpetrated by a group of domestic terrorists in the heat of his re-election campaign.

Sam Seaborn, the president’s astonishingly talented speech writer, is handed the task of reworking a campaign speech to reflect the nation’s grief at the horrific bombing. Standing before a group of teachers, Bartlet declares “they weren’t born like this!”

At just 19 years old, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wasn’t born like this. He learned it somewhere, from someone with a profoundly warped mind. Maybe his brother became radicalized on a trip to the troubled Caucuses region of Russia and brought along a little brother he was able to manipulate. Maybe it was something entirely different.

He learned this somewhere and we, his fellow citizens, must confront this reality. 

We cannot fundamentally understand a terrorist’s mindset or his values because we value our own lives, our own relationships, too much to consider doing something like what these brothers did.

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