Terrorism, like urban crime, is one of those things that you’re not supposed to think about too much. It’s fine to talk about your emotions after a bombing or a mugging. You can even share stories and eventually learn to laugh about it. What you cannot do is talk about where it comes from except in the vaguest terms of social conditions. Like pollution from industry or corruption from government, it’s one of those toxic spin offs of our modern society. It’s just there and we don’t much talk about it.
Islamic terrorism is considered a social problem in Europe. Ask an expert and they’ll talk your ear off about unemployment, racism, overcrowded housing and the same long list of reasons used to explain urban crime. The United States is slowly coming around to that same point of view.
Forget the great debate between whether people kill people or guns kill people. The conclusion reached by most governments before your grandfather was born is that social conditions kill people.
The Tsarneav brothers are being talked about in the same way that most serial killers are. “They were so nice. What made them do it?” It’s the empty repetition of a question to which no one really wants to hear the answer. “What could have made them do it?” isn’t a genuine question, it’s a ceremonial washing of the hands. A ritualistic statement that we couldn’t have known anything was wrong. How could we? They were so nice.
Tamerlan Tsarneav slapped around one girlfriend, dragged another into a barefoot, pregnant and veiled arrangement and went around telling everyone they were infidels. Sure he might have settled down at some point, picked up his membership card in the requisite front groups for the Muslim Brotherhood and limited his terrorist activities to donating to Islamic charities that just happen to do business in the middle of war zones. He could have stuck to beating his wife in the privacy of his home and told his neighbors that America would one day be destroyed knowing they would only nod and walk away humming, “But he’s so nice.”
Tamerlan Tsarneav was indeed a social problem, but not the one most liberals think he is. He wasn’t unemployment, racism or lack of parking spaces. He was the social problem we don’t talk about because it’s off limits. The empty space in the narrative. The one that terrorism comes from.
The Europeans would talk about integration. But what was there for Tamerlan to integrate to? A coterie of white academics looking to get jobs on climate change commissions? A rainbow coalition of minorities taking pride in victimization while demanding their piece of the pie? And who was he? American? What does being American mean? Chechen? Who are they?
Eurocrats worry endlessly about how many Tamerlans in London, Paris and Oslo roll those dice only to see them come up Pakistani, Algerian and Somali. But they can’t talk about what’s wrong with that.
Back in the Tsarneav homeland, clans fight each other to the death, wiping out entire families to the last child. Here is a brief description of one man’s vendetta. “He wanted to kill off all the men in the other family, and he devoted his life to that goal. He would hide someplace where he thought one of his enemies might pass by, staying there for weeks at a time if necessary. In the end, he killed about 20 people.”
That should sound familiar to anyone who sat in front of the television watching the aftermath of the Boston bombings. And here’s another. “The oral tradition abounds in tales of feuds sparked by the theft of a chicken culminating in the death of an entire Teip.” What is a Teip you might ask. A Teip is a Chechen clan. Everyone has one in Chechnya including foreigners. To have a place in the society, you must have a Teip of your own. Otherwise, “This man has neither a Teip nor a Tukkhum.”
Where was Tamerlan’s Teip in America? Americans don’t talk about their Teips. Instead Tamerlan found the same Teip that so many other Pakistanis, Egyptians, Somalis and other Muslim immigrants find when they live in a non-Muslim country. Tamerlan’s Teip, like Nidal Hasan’s Teip, was Islam.