07 May 2013

Where the Bodies are Buried

9:39 PM. News-weary this spring night. Troubled, wondering who will be a speaker for the dead.

I reckon this time I might irritate some folks, with the thoughts I can't help but spill. Spill I must, or burst. Or perhaps just toss and turn trying to shake off dreams that make me ill at ease. I listened overly much to the news today, in servitude to its terrible fascination with the burial ground of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. No one in this country wants the body, and the ones who claim him at all cannot and will not travel here to get him.

Not that I recommend they try it, unless they travel under heavy escort, in unmarked vehicles, in the small hours of the morning.

I do not say that because I bear any hatred towards the parents of the bombing suspect. Whatever their respective characters may be---and the news is not favorable---they were not the ones who made the bombs or set them off. So I have no room for hatred of them in my heart. Pity, maybe.

I say it because of what it seems the majority of society feels towards their children, and how society is looking not just for someone to hate, but to hate with savagery. The collective conscience is howling for blood, any blood, as the only justice for the horrific crimes committed by the brothers Tsarnaev.

I understand that rage, intertwined with the need for revenge. Speaking for myself, however, I do not want it to consume me or my life. I want justice, make no mistake about that. But I have a very hard time convincing myself that justice, in some fashion, has not already been served on the dead brother. Being shot multiple times and then having a relative run over you with a car is in many ways worse than a state-sponsored execution.

Which brings me back to the news today, and its talk of where Tamerlan will be buried. Or rather, not buried. So far no cemetery in Massachusetts has agreed to accept the body. Those cemeteries have, I am sure, well-founded concerns about having such a notorious person buried there.

Because the living, or some of the living, would never be satisfied to let the body alone. This desire for revenge or "eye for an eye" says more about the living, however, than it does about the dead. The living sometimes have what seems to be an insatiable desire for hatred and revenge.

The thing is, if Tamerlan had survived, he would be in custody now along with his brother. They both would be awaiting trial and whatever punishment society saw fit to levy against them. And I cannot say I am immune to the notion that they both deserve to die for what they did.

What I do not want to partake of is the savagery that I suspect many want to inflict not just on the younger brother, but on a corpse. A savagery we decry in others, I will add, and one not entirely square with our ideals of due process and decency.

Before you scream and howl at me, thinking me soft and not living in the real world, know this: I do want justice here. I do not defend or excuse anything the brothers did, because there is no excuse or justification. Due process has to be observed if we are to claim we support the system that allows justice to be served without mob rules...because this is a nation of laws.

I also believe that, like it or not, the disposition of the body is the province of the family, not the state, nor the madding crowd. And if we allow ourselves to get knotted up in revenge and hatred then we have given up on living good lives in spite of the awfulness that our fellow men have cast upon us.

I heard a report that an uncle, the one living in Maryland, had traveled to Massachusetts to prepare the body for a traditional Muslim funeral. He said something to the effect that "Everyone deserves to be buried. Only God can judge the dead." I suppose for those who have a belief in a higher power who judges all, that belief will let you imagine any fate you care to conjure up. Some folks might believe he is a martyr, others will see nothing but eternal damnation as reward for such atrocity. Maybe both sides are right, or neither.

Ultimately, it does not matter. If only God (assuming God exists) can judge, then that judgement will be beyond the knowledge of mere humans. If there is nothing beyond this mortal coil, then maybe most of society can rest assured the murderer has no chance at reward, just annihilation.

What matters is what we, the living, can do with the measure of our days. Why do we need to care where a criminal (or monster, by some lights) is buried? Timothy McVeigh, Adam Lanza and even Osama Bin Laden all received burials, of sorts. Does anyone spend their time trying to track those ashes? Does anyone really want to spend their days spitting on the graves of criminals? If so, perhaps those people should step back and decide whose life are they really living.

I personally do not care where the remains of Tamerlan Tsarnaev end up, as I have no plans to visit for any purpose. I understand that many people won't feel the same about the issue; the desire for revenge and catharsis is ingrained in the tribal psyche of us all. My heart aches for the victims of any such tragedy as what happened in Boston, and that will always be true. But as for myself, I'll let the damned lie where they may without wasting precious time and energy on them. I will not allow myself to be pinned to the strange attractor of unrequited hatred.


  1. I have been so sad about this whole burial issue. The uncle from Maryland seems to be a kind person. I am sad for him, that he cannot go through the grief process he's familiar with, that he, and the rest of the family are being punished. If we, as a nation, could be a people of forgiveness, so many things would be better. I am not at all suggesting we downplay what these men did, or the horrible effect their actions had on the victims.

  2. I agree with what you wrote. Heard on the news that no place in Mass. will allow him to be buried. But also heard that a Muslim cemetery in CT may allow it. I hope so because it is just a body, a mass of carbon now along with formalin as a preservative. Too much hatred exists. I am perplexed and sad that our society cannot even accept that a body that is dead simply holds no sway over our lives.

    1. Syd, I am perplexed as well. It seems to me that for us, the living, to go with our lives requires that we allow the dead their rest. Hate is cheap, love is precious. And I rather invest my emotional currency in love.

  3. I don't know what to say about this whole issue, but thankfully you did, Irish...great post.

    1. You are kind to say so, madam. Often I don't know what I have to say, I just know that of I don't say it, my head might burst. :)

  4. Irish, m'dear, this was a wonderful read. Hatred breeds hatred, and venom aimed at the dead only poisons the living. The family should be allowed to mourn. Who are we to say that they don't mourn the prickly path their child chose to walk, as well as the death.

    I do so love reading you. ~Div

  5. Well written, sir. We should respect the dead. We should have respect for the families, too.

    1. Laurie, my thoughts exactly. I heard a poet---who also happened to be a funeral director---say that respecting our dead is one of the fundamental things that separate us from other creatures that are born, live, breathe, and die. If we forget that, we run the risk of not being human. Thank you.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...