2013-04-19 – Okay! So the Boston Marathon bombers were from Chechnya. And they apparently were Muslims. So we can now feel safe in assuming their motive was somehow related to the Muslim Chechen separatist movement in Russia, right?
Of course, we don’t know the facts yet. But I’m not talking about the safe assumption being accurate. I’m talking about the safe assumption being comforting. Chechnya is far away and, for most of us, Islam is foreign. So if we put these terrorists in the Muslim Chechen box, we can close the door on this episode and hope it doesn’t happen again.
But what if the Muslim Chechen box isn’t the right category? What if the right category is much, much closer to our every day experience? What if the right category is this: These bombers were young men.
That may not have registered, so I’ll say it again. What if the risk factor with these bombers wasn’t the fact that they were Muslim Chechens? What if the risk factor was that they were young men?
Young men are the largest terrorist group in the world.
And that’s scary! I live with members of this terrorist group. Many of you do, too. And that’s why we look for other labels to make us feel safe. My sons are not Muslim Chechens or jihadists or white supremacists or any of the labels we prefer to put on terrorists. So I am safe. End of story.
Think about it. Most of the murderous violence in the world is perpetrated by boys and men between 15 and 30. The Boston Marathon bombers were in this group. Most political terrorists are (the older men are leaders but generally don’t do the dirty work). And so are the nonpolitical terrorists: the gang shooters and the mass murderers.
I’m afraid I may have lost you here. You might want to separate the political terrorists from nonpolitical murderers. But separating these two groups and calling them different phenomena may mask the problem. Consider the types of political views that nurture terrorists. With few exceptions, they are the politics of disaffected males—whether the politics are right, left, religious, or secular. Maybe the content of the political beliefs aren’t what makes these men terrorists. Maybe it’s just their age and gender. (Also, think about the shooter of Gabby Giffords. Was he political or was he not? They said he was a paranoid schizophrenic, and I’m sure that was true. But human psychology is often a matter of degree. One thing was sure, however: he was a young male.)
Have you ever met people like this? I have. You probably have, too, but you may not have recognized it, because the political labels obscure our view.
Now, I’m not saying that all young males are terrorists. Most are not. I was one myself once and I successfully grew out of that stage without killing anyone. The vast majority do. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something about that stage of a man’s life that is risky.
An uncle of the Boston Marathon bombers was asked what may have motivated his nephews. His response? “Being losers.” He may have been right, regardless of their politics.
That’s why the terrorists I am most afraid of are the terrorists from Madman-istan.