Why All This Maternal Sympathy for Dzhokhar?
By Hanna Rosin | Posted Monday, April 29, 2013,
It’s not all that surprising that the suspected Boston bombers, particularly younger brother Dzhokhar, have already inspired passionate crushes in girls. (Here is a Tumblr called Free Jahar, as his would-be girlfriends call him, anchored by a photo of him kicking back in his Timberlands.) As Rachel Monroe wrote last year in her excellent essay “The Killer Crush,” extravagant murderers like James Holmes (the Aurora, Colo., shooter) and the Columbine boys tend to bring on alarming fevers of admiration from teenagers, and maybe some of them grow up to be the women who marry the guys in prison. (Hybristophilia is the technical term for getting turned on by high-profile criminals.)
The fan-girl fantasies involve an injured Dzhokhar showing up at your house and lots of Florence Nightingale–like ministrations (before they get porny, of course). You can almost imagine them as one of the "~♥~ Let me take care of you ~♥~" series of videos where women with soothing voices bring out the warm cloths. Here is a scene from one posted on the “Free Jahar” site:
[Dzhokhar] sounded much more terrified than you could have possibly been. “Are you okay?” You begged him to tell you he was fine, nobody really knew. “I’m hit, in the leg, but I- wait what? You’re asking if I’m okay?” He was surprised, but calmer now. “I know you didn’t do it, and even if you did, I know you aren’t harmful.” He sighed with your words, he felt safe for the first time since he saw his face on the television.
But what stands out in the ardor for Dzhokhar is a deep maternal strain. Given what the man is accused of doing—killing an 8-year-old, among others, and helping to set off bombs that were loaded to maim—how do you explain that? In the past week and a half I have not been to a school pickup, birthday, book party, or dinner where one of my mom friends has not said some version of “I feel sorry for that poor kid.” This group includes mothers of infants and grandmothers and generally pretty reasonable intelligent types, including one who is an expert on Middle Eastern extremist groups.
Many of them mention that ubiquitous photo of Dzhokhar with his hair tousled and too few hairs on his chin to shave. Some bring up the prom photo with the red carnation or the goofy video of him wrestling with his friends.* Some mention the “I love you, bro” tweets from his many friends. Some just seem anguished by the vision of that “poor kid” alone in the boat by himself, bleeding for all those hours. All of this sympathy stems of course from the storyline that coalesced early: a hapless genial pothead being coerced into killing by his sadistic older brother. As with such storylines, all evidence to the contrary gets suppressed.
And Rosin brings up, naively, another one of my upcoming essay's joke themes:
(Older brother Tamerlan’s inability to continue to box in the top national competition because he wasn’t a citizen after a rule change barring legal residents—in other words, to become more American—seems to have narrowed his options and radicalized him, for example.)