The Lazy Futility of EvilThe general rule is that lunatic mass murderers in this country who're hearing unintelligible messages from the voices in their heads use guns, while lunatic mass murderers who're hearing unintelligible messages gussied up with a veneer of political, social or religious verbiage use bombs.
The Tsernaev brothers used both bombs and guns, which seems to put them right in the middle of that awful spectrum. They were both motivated terrorists and plain old spree killers. Which ought to but won't teach the rest of us that's there no damn difference between the two.
If, as appears likely based on what is thought to be known (and how much we learned this week turned out not to be known, because it wasn't so), the elder Tsernaev became an utterly alienated devotee of the more rage-filled clerics of Islam, it's hard for me to see that as political. Religion, all religions, have served as excuses for the criminally angry since the dawn of time. Right now in Myanmar, Buddhists are engaging in communal violence against Muslims. I'm sure Gautama is very proud.
Nor is bombing the Boston Marathon a political act in any way. The Marathon is supremely nonpolitical. It is a mass event that serves no purpose except to generate a great deal of human happiness, a sports event where 99.99 percent of the competitors rightly regard themselves as having won it. The September 11 atrocities were directed against what an international criminal organization regarded, not wrongly, as symbols of American power. What does the Marathon symbolize? For most Bostonians it means "hey, it's spring. Let's go outside and have a good time."
If that's what the Tsernaevs were attacking, then their enemy wasn't Boston, or the U.S. It was the pleasures of life itself. That's a place outside political or religious thought.
Alienated to the point of dementia young men make excellent patsies. It's still possible the brothers were identified and supported by some larger organization from parts unknown. The world is full of
wretched places where shadow wars go on composed of nothing but atrocities by both sides, and their place of birth is one of the worst of 'em. But I doubt it. And even if they were, said organization, whatever it says about itself, has no real creed but nihilism, an emotion, not an ideology, that is beyond politics -- beyond civilization.
Aside from making a large contribution to the sum of human misery, the Marathon bombing accomplished no end at all. There will be a 2014 Marathon, with more runners and spectators than ever before. Security on Boylston Street will be different, but not all that different, I'm guessing. Maybe they'll set up a runner-family and friends meetup center with a package center at the Common or some such. It will still be a spring day, a holiday for going outside and having a good time. That impulse, thank God, is far more universal and just as powerful as the urge to create misery to vent one's own.
Creating misery is easy, because human beings are vulnerable. That dynamic will never change. All we can do about is watch carefully for the laziest of the miserable who find hurting others more convenient than changing themselves, and go about the pursuit of happiness as best we can.