Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Mind of Katherine Russell Tsarnaev

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.”


Dennis said...

“people are responsible for their own choices.”

I would like to see this as billboard along side every major highway and as an ad in every major communication media.
As I have stated before "responsibility is the key to freedom." Without it we all slowly devolve into slavery.

Scott said...

“people are responsible for their own choices.”

In the USA, this doesn't apply if you're a woman or a minority.

Lastango said...

Althouse may be on to something. I'd like to put forward what may be another (perhaps related) possibility: dilettantish elitism.

Remember the Red Brigades? One reason for their longevity was that they were the children of the Italian elites, and as such the Italian establishment was very reluctant to go after them in any meaningful way.

Here, the young woman's father is a doctor. The social prominence this confers may have fed a sense of specialness and entitlement -- that she is better, smarter than everyone else, and entitled to re-engineer society by any means necessary. I'm reminded of celebrities who think themselves so special that they know how global problems ought to be addressed.

Someone who is talented and hardworking, or ambitious, might translate a sense of specialness into obtaining (say) their own medical degree.

By contrast, someone who doesn't have what it takes to excel, but nonetheless feels very special, will be subconsciously looking for an easy avenue toward being impactful on a grand scale. Terrorism provides a direct route to that sort of validation, and has acquired regrettable associations with Che-chic style glamour. At times, as has been the case in the US, Canada, and Europe, it has been rewarded with celebrity, heroic status, professorships, and the admiration of a fawning intelligencia. That's magical bait to dangle in front of someone very ordinary but who nonetheless "knows" she is entitled to some form of conspicuous prominence.

Anonymous said...

Maybe she was waterboarded. That makes it George W. Bush's fault. Perfect MSM narrative, and the distressed damsel gets off scot free. She was under extreme duress. Perfect.

Dennis: I'll chip in a few shekels for that billboard campaign. The only thing I'll warn you is that it may be banned by the Department of Transportation for the "road terror" it may inspire (a new diagnosis for the DSM, no doubt). People may just FREAK OUT!!!


David Foster said...

Back in 1950, Arthur Koestler wrote a novel whose primary character was a young American woman living in France. Hydie had once been a devout Catholic, but has lost her faith. She was briefly married, but has never found either physical or emotional satisfaction with a man. She finds herself unable to be attracted to American and European men, but falls very hard for a committed Russian Communist.

My review is here: Sleeping with the Enemy.

From a psychosexual point of view, Hydie's lack of attraction to Western men is a reflection of the West's collective lack of civilizational self-confidence, which overpowers the attractive features of individual men.

It is well-known that women find self-confidence in men attractive on an individual level. Is there also an impact from society-wide self-confidence or lack of same?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thank you, David, as always. As for your last question, I have been working on it for another ms, and would be interested if you know of any research on the topic.

We know, or at least I think we do, that nations can feel pride or despair, especially after winning and losing wars. We know that depression is a libido suppressant. I am not sure that this means that people who suffer this suppressant will naturally feel less desire, but I believe that they probably need to make a far greater effort to induce and sustain it-- thus they become decadent.

Witness Weimar Germany...

David Foster said...

No research comes to mind, Stuart, but it does make a certain amount of sense. If you were a member of the army that defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, you probably gained a certain amount of your own eyes as well as those of others...even if all you actually ever did was KP.

Regarding Weimar, here's an interesting portrait by Sebastian Haffner, who was there:

Despite everything, one could find a fresh atmosphere in Germany at this time…The barriers between the classes had become thin and permeable…There were many students who were labourers, and many young labourers who were students. Class prejudice and the starched-collar mentality were simply out of fashion. The relations between the sexes were freer and franker than ever–perhaps a fortunate by-product of the lack of discipline of the past years…we felt a bewildered sympathy for previous generations who had, in their youth, had the choice between unapproachable virgins for adoration and harlots for relaxation. Finally, a new hope even began to dawn in international relations; there was less prejudice and more understanding of the other side, and an unmistakable pleasure in the vivid variety that the world derives from its many peoples.

David Foster said...

See also J W von Goethe, himself no slouch in matters of love and sex, on why German girls of his acquaintance were more attracted to visiting Englishmen than to their own countrymen.