Spent the weekend in the old hometown. I strongly prefer the old two-lane routes that predate the interstate for my cross-Nebraska travels. The extra hour or so it adds to the trip is more than made up for by the sight of towns, trees, life. Students in Kearney drinking on their porch; kids coming off out of gas stations with their giant sodas, roughneck truckers and grain dealers trading macho laconic bullshit. Life. My cousin found a boyfriend who likes to drink as much as she does while also being far more decent than who she's had before. They're really quite adorable together.
I heard several people in a North Platte bar state that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should of been left to bleed out. I was horrified at this, but hardly surprised that many would seek in this way to mark themselves as morally exceptional for being anti-terrorist. Not to risk the unspeakable fate of being labeled a pussy myself, but there are in the first case several obvious, hard, and practical reasons for why their bloodlust is mistaken. Doctors, of course, or simply not in the business of punishment. If someone comes through the emergency door with a hole in him the doctors patch it up, simple as that. Deserve has never had a thing to do with it and the righteous chest thumpers should be glad for that when they need a doctor for their lung tumors. I would also ask them to think of how much nonsense the country would have been spared of Lee Harvey Oswald had lived to be formally convicted and formally punished. Perhaps he would have even confessed and put the whole thing to bed within a week, buzzkill though that may have been for many. Tsarnaev has a story to tell; a grievance that is at least somewhat new to the United States. The quest to understand why people do foul things is of much greater use in preventing them than indulgent rage at the obviously foul.
And this brings me to the more extra-pragmatic moral reasons against seeking the hardest justice possible against this man. Call me pussy as much as you like but I tell you that if you consider hostility to evil to be the greatest moral good; if you view morality as primarily a vehicle for proving manliness, courage, or willingness to action, than you are quite simply ignorant as to why terrorism is wrong.
The Tsarnaev brothers have killed one third as many people as the factory explosion in central Texas . and yet has gotten far more media attention. Part of the reason why, to be sure, is the fact that the marathon bombing happened in a major city of the Northeast national downtown. The main reason, however, is the fact that the Texas explosion seems to have been an accident. There is no one there to damn, despise, look down upon. It was a tragedy that simply happened, with as yet no morality tale to be tacked on after the fact, and that's simply depressing. I remember how during the 08 campaign President Obama was criticized by some for referring to 'the tragedy of 9/11', because of course being outraged is so much braver and stronger than being sad.
There is something inside all of us that passionately loves evil. The grand expressions of hatred towards evil men are simply part of the fun, part of why we love them. We love it when death takes a tangible form that can be punched back. Some people love evil to the point of seeing hostility to it as the only valid organizing principal of life, and demand that their whole culture be organized towards this end and no other. But it ain't the Song of Roland that got us 80 year life spans and a flag on the moon. Life is not lived for struggle. The occasional need to protect ourselves from the malevolence of other people must be kept subservient and incidental to the struggle for life.