Like many Americans, I have raged at the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing. I was even glad when they fatally shot the older one early Friday. Good riddance, you bastard, I thought.
A few hours after his death, I learned that the younger suspect, the one named Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was 19, which happens to be the same age as my son. A short while later I got a look at this 19-year-old’s face. It’s staring out at me right now from a computer screen. Of course, my son and Dzhokhar don’t look similar. Yet I can’t help but see similarities between this young Chechen and my son -- my beloved, precious half-man-half-boy -- who for some reason has not found himself in the same awful state as the face on the screen.
In case you’re worried, I’m not about to wander off into a maudlin reverie of sympathy that amounts to a justification of what this boy did. I’m not like that. Assuming Dzhokhar is a perpetrator, he deserves to die.
I am, however, reminded of what the English poet and cleric John Donne wrote during what, at one point, appeared to be a fatal illness. Here is what he said:
“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another."
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
Dzhokhar will die, on the street or in a prison. Justice has its demands. But Donne says we are no less diminished by his death than we already have been by the unspeakably sad deaths of Lu Lingzi, Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard and MIT officer Sean Collier.
I’m watching CNN. So many bells have been tolling. We are so diminished. We, not them. We.