A Mother’s Guilt

          The anguished cries of Zubeidat Tsarnaeva penetrate our brains. The mother of the two suspected Boston bombers, Tsarnaeva cries and wails and shouts, and we can’t take our eyes off of her. She accuses the United States of framing her sons, insisting they are innocent despite overwhelming proof to the contrary. Lashing out with fury and blame, she says that America is at fault for what happened here. But listen carefully, and you hear something else. You hear a mother’s guilt.

          This mother’s guilt is not the shame or sense of responsibility shouldered by Uncle Ruslan Tsarni, who called the men “losers”, jealously hating those who could “settle themselves”.  On the contrary.  Zubeidat doesn’t feel guilty about the innocent victims of the bombing, because she takes no responsibility for that. In fact, she says that her only mistake was in bringing her family here, in believing that America was a good place to live. So what is she so guilty about?

          Every mother knows her children. She knows their good natures, their bad tempers, and their breaking points. This mother left her two sons alone in a country thousands of miles away from her, without any other family to watch over them. She knew Tamerlan was angry; she knew he was strong and dominating. She knew he had been accused of beating his wife. She knew this capable young man was not even earning a living- in fact he was living on welfare, feeling sorry for himself, nursing his grievances. She knew that Tamerlan’s dream of becoming a professional boxer had been thwarted, leaving him angrier than ever. She knew that Tamerlan had turned to the fundamentalist aspects of the Muslim faith, listening to leaders who blamed Americans and western values for their problems in the world.

Despite everything that she knew, Zubeidat left her younger son Dzohar in Tamerlan’s care.  In her heart, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva knows that she is to blame for the fact that her surviving son will likely never see daylight again. She is the reason why her son now lays in a jail infirmary. She is the reason his future options, if convicted, are either solitary confinement or the death penalty. If she had been here she might have had a chance to intercept this plan. She might have been her sons’ confidante, she might have been a helpful influence on their lives. Though she might not have been able to stop Tamerlan from doing his evil, she might have saved her younger son. Instead, her message was- you are on your own. Good luck to you.

I’m a mother too. In the first hours after the bombing suspects were taken, I heard the ravings of Tsarnaeva with sympathy. Grief over the sudden loss of children is horrific; who among us know what we would say to anyone when faced with these facts.  Denial, fury, pain and shock- all of it totally understandable, even normal.  But as the facts filter out, I admit to less pity and more scorn. The shrinks call it transference, when you attach blame to someone else for something that you cannot face about yourself.  Zubeidat Tsarnaeva is choosing to blame America for the fact that she was a really lousy mother. And no one knows that better than Zubeidat herself.

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