Marathon Bomber as Human Sacrifice

twitter20n-5-webDzhokhar Tsarnaev, Marathon bomber and terrorist, was a real loser. So says his uncle.

The uncle saw something in his nephew that the profilers in the news don’t quite capture. What is often emphasized is Dzhokhar’s ability to adapt and thrive. We are told he learned English rapidly after coming to the United States in 2002. He did well in school. He got a scholarship to college. He had friends, was well liked and worked the social media like a pro. He was an excellent wrestler. A good team member. His coach, Peter Payack, is a particularly devoted cheerleader. He is quoted in the New York Times as describing Dzhokhar as providing a model of good sportsmanship and steady temperament for teammates. “You always see people’s personality traits over the course of a season,” he is quoted as saying. “If somebody is short-tempered, if they lose a match, maybe they throw a chair. There’s somebody who’s moody, or like a loner. He was none of those things.”

Is being a loner necessarily is a bad thing? Too many in our culture believe that.  Frankly I worry more about the outgoing achievers who often hide their own troubles in others pain. In other words some extroverts are really good at scapegoating. It’s part of why they are winners!

Dzhokhar was obviously good at using his extroverted personality to confuse his coach and friends on what was going on in another part his life, his family. The father trained in the law who works banal jobs in Cambridge divorces his wife and returns to Mother Russia. The mother and older brother embrace Islam likely as a way to find meaning in a confusing new culture, not to mention the disintegration of their family.  The divorced mother leaves to rejoin her husband, leaving the disaffected older brother   as head of the family and defacto caretaker of his younger brother. It’s a difficult situation  for both young men who, like so many young immigrants before them, have a foot in both new and old worlds. The older brother’s world view obviously wins the day.

Dzhokhar follows in the path of so many suicide bombers who, under the influence of disaffected family and community, becomes the family’s human sacrifice.

Much of the above must be considered with many grains of salt (and more than a little vodka). There is not enough information about Dzhokhar and his social environs to  back it up. I’ve been an expert witness at court and know how difficult it becomes to remain neutral. In his trial, there will be lots of  narratives with similar facts interpreted with different emphases mostly depending on which motive fits the side the ‘experts’ represent.

Religious and political systems are important to adolescents but they are even more vulnerable to deterioration in their family. I was struck by coach Payack’s empathic comment when describing the night when Dzhokhar and the rest of his team were celebrating their last match together and were asked to bring a family member to share the experience. “One of the coaches walked him out. No father, no brother, nothing.” That must have been both embarassing and painful. The coach obviously took an interest in Dzhokhar. I doubt if it just serendipity that Mr. Payachk was a marathoner himself and had run several Boston Marathons. On the day of the bombing he was watching his son trying to duplicate his own feats in a race that never ended. Did Dzhokhar know this? Was he envious? Probably angry as well. Coaches can be important as surrogate fathers but sons almost always take first place in that particular race.

An aside to all of you. Thanks for all your questions and comments on my email. They tell and teach me a lot.

Dr. Scapegoat


  1. Alan Ruskin says:

    Arthur I think this was a particularly excellent column. Please continue this work.

  2. Werewolf Finds Dragon says:

    This is just another piece in the puzzle. I’ve said for a long time that the media perception of sociopaths is — quite essentially — extroverts. That the kind of arrogance, narcissism, and manipulative behaviour that’s commonplace from extrovert to extrovert is the same kind of behaviour displayed by sociopaths (and even psychopaths) in fictional works. This is often attributed to introverts within those works of fiction, but when you look at reality, the truth is quite the opposite. Almost all serial killers are extroverts, there are studies out there which prove this, you won’t have to look far.

    This is what’s so worrying to certain people in psychology circles. That a.) extroverts outnumber everyone else in magnitudes, and b.) you can’t be extroverted without also being borderline or outright psychopathic, that every extrovert alive is on a hair trigger. We’re a society on a razor’s edge, all it would take is for one powerful extrovert to gain enough power to throw the world into utter chaos. I think the constructs in place right now that stop that from happening were put in place by a few particularly brilliant introverted minds, to keep the extroverted masses in check, to disallow them that potential.

    But it’s all a balancing act, on a razor’s edge, and we could slip at any moment and if we do… there’s no getting up again. We’re looking at an extinction event.

    You need only look at the past to realise how true this is. With its Inquisitions, its pilgrims, its Nazis, and so on. I don’t know how much longer the introverts behind the curtain can keep juggling everything to stop the extroverted masses from collapsing into murderous insanity. There’s a reason that introverts aren’t serial killers — we’re terrified of them, we don’t glorify them and romanticise them like extroverts do. You need only look at the contemporary media to realise how glorified murder is. It makes me feel nauseous wondering just how long they can be stupefied and brainwashed by violent media, designed specifically to help them deal with their murderous, borderline/psychopathic tendencies…

    And when that stops working, what’s the plan B to stop everything from going to shit?

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