Sympathy for the devil

I have a couple of superpowers. One, apparently, is empathy. On the day of the Boston Marathon, I felt the pain and loss of those who were killed or injured, or whose loved ones were, intensely, almost bodily. And as the search for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev progressed, I felt what I imagined to be his pain, his terror, similarly. The fact of his deeds didn’t lessen my empathy for him one bit.

This isn’t to say I don’t think ill of him. Just that I have no difficulty simultaneously feeling outrage at his actions and sympathy for his plight. And, notably, one thing I don’t feel is anger directed at him. In its place, I feel a sort of ravenous curiosity – how could he have constructed or inhabited a mental landscape in which his actions, and those of his brother, made sense?

Again, I’m not justifying or defending him. I’m observing my reaction.


  1. I felt the exact same way. Actually just published a poem about it – we are, as humans, awfully quick to grab hold of someone and hang them before we ever get the other side of the story. Likewise, I believe what he and his brother did is reprehensible, but – none of us will ever really understand what led such a young man to feel this was defensible.

  2. Not sure what’s gone wrong with the 2 brothers? What happened to their lives in US after they migrated from Chechen to the USA? What injustices did they feel that prompt them to do such unthinkable acts? They must have full of hatred inside their hearts! Maybe they don’t have sex lives at all?!

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