Branded # 3: “Old-Fashioned Quaker Notes”



[Branded # 3 modified by paper-and-scissors artist Delia Marshall]

The New York Times tells me that my life has returned to normal so that must be true. Except . . .

. . . that like I was after 9/11, I am piercingly aware of my own vulnerability and everyone’s around me. (Over time, my tenderness towards my fellow human beings wore off. Maybe it’ll stay with me this time?)

. . . that two of my daughters went to Cambridge Rindge and Latin; so did the Tsarnaev brothers. Which means that my hip, progressive, supposedly inclusive world is rocked. Permanently:

Last week, before the surveillance pictures had been released, I realized that should we learn that the perpetrators of the Marathon bombing were home-grown, that I would be far, far more distressed than to learn the perpetrators were Al Qaeda. That to discover that this cruel attack (Ball bearings? BBs? Tiny nails? Timed to kill and maim just when the runners for charity would cross the finish line?)  would force me to to acknowledge a home-grown rage so much nastier, meaner, uglier and of a breath and depth than I had been willing to admit existed.

And lo, this rage was nurtured not in a white supremacist’s jail cell nor at a Tea Party nor on an Obama and Biden Want To Take Away Our Guns site but in my own backyard. In the spirit of Truth-telling I must admit that I now wonder if, given my proximity and same-school connection to the Tsarnaev brothers, there was something I should have done.Which is both crazy but required.

Yes, yes, I know that Tamerlan Tsarnaev took a six-month trip last July to Chechnya and Dagestan where, it is speculated, he became radicalized.But shouldn’t all of us living in the village that, to a significant degree, raised these brothers wonder why this radicalization took root?

So, no, I’m not back to normal. And never will be.


Join the Conversation


  1. I sometimes wonder what normal is anymore. What struck me hardest and most painfully about the bombings was the loss of innocence. One might think that I had little innocence left to lose but the Marathon has been a day of joy, community and playfullness since I was a tiny child (and I’ve been attending the marathon since my mother pushed me in a double stroller). What I can not get out of my head is the idea that this day will be forever tainted. The innocence is gone, lost and while I am certain the marathon will continue I am equally certain the unrestrained joy is gone. I think that is, in part, why I need to believe that at least the younger bomber did not recognize the consequences of his actions. To kill people is one thing – and clearly not something I support – to kill that kind of joyous celebration feels like an entirely other level of action. And yet says a good deal about the motivations of the bombers. Clearly, they did not feel that joy and innocence which means somehow that message got lost.

  2. “…identity with dignity…” was a phrase to take away from Jessica Stern’s comments in the linked PBS piece. With the Kenya election violence a few years ago, much that we heard about was tribal, but Kenyan acquaintances also saw the challenge was very high unemployment of their young men.

    I just don’t know. I know I don’t want the child in the hospital bed water-boarded. Or tortured.

    I heard on NPR this morning that restaurant workers were having recurring nightmares, and today they are power-washing blood, sweeping up glass, addressing the dishes of food left behind when chaos and mayhem and yet another cataclysmic tragedy occurred.

    We must keep asking, and remain connected to the grief without allowing it to absolutely rule. All these people deserve our consideration, our grief, our introspection.

  3. Given their inept actions afterward (no getaway car; it was in the shop, no $, had to use the hijacked car’s owner’s ATM: no escape plan) I don’t think they thought much about many things. Except, like many adolescents, “I must do this, now!”

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