In many ways it is easier to understand Tamerlan Tsarnaev than it is to grasp the mind of his wife, Katherine Russell.
Tsarnaev and his brother did what they did to affirm their Muslim heritage. They set off bombs at the Boston Marathon because they believed it was their Muslim duty to wage jihad against America.
Katherine Russell, however, is an All-American girl from Rhode Island. Her father is a physician; her mother is a nurse. She had the same aspirations as many young Americans. She wanted to go to college and join the Peace Corps.
When she dropped out of college, converted to Islam, donned a hijab, married Tamerlan Tsarnaev and bore him a child she was repudiating her past, her present, her culture and her nation.
As of now, it does not appear that she had a direct role in producing the bombs that detonated at the finish line of the marathon, but still, her computer contained files of Al Qaeda propaganda.
Her friends say that Katherine was brainwashed by her fanatical husband. It’s as easy an explanation as any, except that it makes her a victim, not an agent of her own decisions.
I prefer Ann Althouse’s explanation:
Are you buying [the idea that she was brainwashed] or do you think that Peace Corps aspirationalists are just the kind of American kids who feel drawn to the idea of becoming the other?
I agree with Althouse: “people are responsible for their own choices.”