I wondered if I would take heat for last week’s graphic comparing Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to a young Bob Dylan. As it turns out, I needn’t have worried; neither of my readers said anything about it.
But posting those pictures was more than just a fun interlude. It was also a conscious effort not to assign mental or spiritual gravity to the Tsarnaev brothers. I understand the legal system and innocent-till-proven-guilty and all. But assuming the Tsarnaevs did what they are accused of, then they deserve not awe but punishment and derision. One brother has already gotten his just payment, it appears, and the surviving Tsarnaev will undoubtedly suffer for his atrocities as well.
But here’s why our reaction as Americans matters. Terrorism’s effectiveness is based not on how many human beings it kills or maims, as awful as those realities may be. The power of terrorism arises from the terrorists’ ability to manipulate or even control the emotional state of the people being terrorized. For that reason, it’s important we not allow these men to become enshrined, even in a negative way, in our national conscience.
In fact, mockery is a wonderful antidote to excessive gravity regarding our enemies. There’s certainly a long tradition in this country of mocking those who do us harm, as clearly demonstrated here, here, here and here. Mocking enemies who would loom large in our national imagination in no way disrespects those whom they directly harm; it simply prevents further damage from the reverberations of their evil deeds raging through the minds of our people.