Unlike his victims, Tamerlan Tsarnaev has no permanent place to rest his head.
It's hard to feel sorry for him. He stands accused of having participated in the terrorist bombing near the finish line of the 2013 Boston marathon. Already convicted in the court of public opinion, he carries with him to the grave the responsibility for the death of three people in an act that maimed, injured and disfigured countless of innocent people who were doing nothing more than having a good time at a nationally-known sporting event.
If evil has a face it could well be Tamerlan Tsarnaev's. His reckless disregard for human life casts him among the still young century's most heinous of villains, on par with the Sept. 11 hijackers and those who still practice genocide in the Balkans, parts of the Middle East and Africa. Yet there are those, like my bloleauge Susan Milligan, writing here on Thomas Jefferson Street, who bemoan the fact that they can find no place to bury him, as though the resistance to the idea of having him interred close to loved ones is somehow un-American.
It is in fact a tribute to the basic humanity and decency of the American ethos that Tsarnaev's corpse has been treated with the dignity it has thus far received. In other parts of the world it would have been consigned to a landfill with the rest of the garbage or dismembered and left in a field to be ravaged by wild animals.
No one should be calling the funeral director who took on the distasteful task of preparing Tsarnaev's body for burial. He's only doing his job. That doesn't mean, however, that society as a whole is obliged to accord Tsarnaev the respect and reverence normally due the dearly departed. Back in the 1920s, it was common for Catholic cemeteries in Chicago to refuse burial in consecrated ground to members of the Capone mob and other outfits who were victims of gangland violence. Is Tamerlan Tsarnaev so very different? Would it really be so bad if Tsarnaev were buried in an unmarked grave in a Potters' Field somewhere? It's not so much that his grave might become some kind of gathering place for terrorists or an unintended memorial so much as the people of Boston will have plenty of reason to remember him no matter where he is buried.
In the end, we all return to the ashes from whence we came. Tsarnaev has already arrived in the place where he will spend eternity. It won't matter to him a whit where his earthly body is laid to rest.