Sympathy for the bomber



Alive, he was a wanted man. But as a corpse, no one wants him.

A funeral director in Worcester (bless his soul!) can't find a place to bury the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the elder of the Boston bombing suspects. The city of Cambridge, which one might argue (as his last place of residence)  has an obligation to bury him, wants him buried elsewhere. His mother wants him sent home, but Russia has not assented. The candidates for John Kerry's old Senate seat don't want him buried in Bay State soil. Meanwhile, over 100 offers for grave sites have poured in. But none has panned out -- whether due to hoaxers or to people offering graves that they don't control.

So, the search for a resting place goes on. And there's no question of why.

Places like Cambridge probably feel they are already associated too closely with Tsarnaev, thank you very much, being the city where he lived, as well as where Tsarenaev allegedly shot MIT police officer Sean Collier. Aside from sensitivity to Collier's family, city officials probably don't want to have to deal with the anger of Bostonians, who might vandalize the grave, or God help us, dig up the bomber to desecrate his corpse. Given the choice, few other towns would risk the violence and notoriety that would come with having such a criminal in their soil.

Other nationally-known criminals have had problematic burials. The body of John Wilkes Booth, assassin of president Abraham Lincoln, and shot dead on the Garret Farm in Virginia, "was shrouded in a blanket and tied to the side of an old farm wagon for the trip back to Belle Plain," Virginia. "The body was then buried in a storage room at the Old Penitentiary, [and] later moved to a warehouse at the Washington Arsenal."  Finally, four years after Booth's death, "the remains were once again identified before being released to the Booth family, where they were buried in the family plot at Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore....No gravestone marks the precise location where Booth is buried in the family's gravesite."

Lee Harvey Oswald, JFK's killer, got a quiet, decent burial in Fort Worth, perhaps in deference to his wife Marina and two small children. Yet, the first tombstone was stolen, and the new marker, reading simply "Oswald," is a replacement. In 1981, Oswald's body was exhumed. A self-appointed researcher was convinced that "a Russian assassin had been substituted for the real Lee Harvey Oswald after his defection to the Soviet Union, a fact the United States government suppressed to avoid World War Three." The body was disinterred, examined, and proven conclusively to be Oswald's.

What are the options for Tsarnaev? Burial by some sympathetic city? An Osama-like burial at sea? Repatriation to Chechnya, where his grave might become an attraction for others of a terrorist bent? Permanent storage in some refrigerated government storehouse?

As a nation where Christianity is still a prominent faith, the words of Christ to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48) might have bearing here. As would the works of temporal mercy, which include a provision to bury the dead.

Don't think that I am naive. I know the hatred that animates the soul and the disgust with a man who has harmed and terrified so many.  Maybe my Pop's words are the advice we need: Time is a great healer. With time, tempers cool and outage subsides. We will eventually outdistance the impulse to seek revenge on the dead for the pain of the living. Until then, let us hope that true mercy animates the soul of someone in this poor, frightened nation, permitting Tamerlan Tsarnaev the rest that he denied to so many.