The tragedy of the Tsarnaev brothers

We failed them before they failed us. Photo: Dzhokar (l) and Tamerlan Tsarnev on Apr 15

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., April 21, 2013 — As we reflect on the events of the past week, America has some soul-searching to do if we hope to discover what went wrong. The manhunt is over. One of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects is dead, killed in a shootout with police; the other is in custody. Unlike the television police drama, the real case is not complete with their apprehension. There are still a lot of loose ends to tie up.

The Boston Globe has an in-depth story on the Tsarnaev brothers and their family. It is the best piece of investigative journalism I have read in a very long time.

SEE RELATED: Massacre at the Boston Marathon

The Tsarnaev family immigrated to America seeking a better life, as millions of people had done before them: a chance to build a new life free from the violence and oppression of their old one. “In Kyrgyzstan we were oppressed,” the father said. “We wanted a quiet life. I was afraid for my kids and tried to save them.”

And yet in the end, the two Tsarnev brothers, especially the older Tamerlan, brought that violence with them. The tragedy is theirs as well as ours.


Their story as a first-generation immigrant family seems no different from the stories of other immigrants. Were they disliked because of their ethnicity or religion? There doesn’t seem to be any real evidence of it. Even if they were, waves of Irish, German, Southern and Eastern European, Asian and other immigrants were likewise not immediately accepted and were actively discriminated against. Both then and now, first generations formed their own communities with people they felt more comfortable with.

SEE RELATED: AP seeks to define ‘Islamist’

Today, however, there is a difference in the environment that greets immigrants.

Then, they became acculturated. They fit in. They were taught what it meant to be Americans: They were taught that America is an ideal, not an ethnicity. They were taught that all men are created equal, that they are equal before the law, that if you work hard you can get ahead.

They learned English. They learned the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. They became citizens, in the process giving up their allegiance to their former countries. They assimilated. They added elements of their culture to the rich culture that is America.

Something is very different today.

SEE RELATED: Tamerlan Tsarnaev: A Chechen jihadist in Boston?

Today, immigrants are taught multiculturalism. They are told that the country they have come to is no better than the country they have fled. They are told that they don’t have to learn English: In fact, if their native language is not catered to, they are being discriminated against. They are still taught the Constitution, but that it is a living document and not the rule of law. They are taught that they have rights but that their rights stem from their ethnicity or their gender. Instead of being taught the value of hard work — a value which most bring with them anyway — they are taught how to apply for welfare.

One political party pretty much ignores them, assuming that they’ll figure things out on their own. The other mines them for their votes.

They form their own communities, as immigrants always did, but now there is less reason to assimilate.

Tamerlan seemed to appreciate what America has to offer: “America has a lot of jobs. That’s something Russia doesn’t have,” he told a newspaper in 2004. “You have a chance to make money here if you are willing to work.” But he also felt he didn’t fit in: “I don’t have a single American friend. I don’t understand them.’’

Who was there to help him fit in? Where were the traditional organs of society that help immigrants assimilate?

Not the political party that ignores immigrants. Not the political party who is only interested in getting his vote. Not the public school system or any part of the government, which tells him he doesn’t have to assimilate.

And yet, like all human beings, he wanted to be a part of something. So he turned to his tribe, to his ethnic roots. There he found his Chechen roots. There he found jihad.

Make no mistake: He alone is responsible for his choices. It is not his family’s fault. He is not the dupe of some al-Qaeda Svengali. It is not our fault.

But we did make it easy for him to choose the wrong path. We no longer teach assimilation. We say it’s OK to be an island within a nation. It’s not.

Minority groups in countries throughout the world should teach us that. Russia has the same problem with ethnic minorities. Stalin sought to solve the issue by creating autonomous republics within the Soviet Union, still under Communist Party control. It didn’t work. Chechnya was one of them. Tamerlan found his Chechen roots even though it seems he never lived there. He found radical Islam. Tragedy followed on April 15.

We will not avert homegrown terrorism by pretending that radical Islam is not the major cause. We will not prevent terror attacks by redirecting the blame on our political opponents. We will not protect our citizens by turning America into a police state. We must trust in the virtues of a free society and a liberty-loving people. Only then will we prevent home-grown terrorism.

Just as Tamerlan returned to his roots, so must we as Americans return to ours.


READ MORE from Al Maurer at Red Pill, Blue Pill

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Al Maurer

Al Maurer is a political scientist and founder of The Voice of Liberty. He writes on topics of limited government and individual rights.

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