The Only Comment Possible on the Tsarnaev Burial Dilemma

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J.L. Wall

J.L. Wall is a native Kentuckian in self-imposed exile to the Midwest, where he studies literature and over-analyzes Leonard Cohen lyrics.

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42 Responses

  1. Avatar Jason Kuznicki
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    says:

    Thank you for posting this.Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    I believe the French have a saying about the more things change, the more they stay the same. We might dress differently and our toys might be different but many of the dilemmas faced by us were faced by our ancestors in the distant past.

    Personally, I don’t see the benefit in denying Tamerlane Tsarnaev a burial somewhere. What he did was horrible but plenty of other people have done worse and received glorious funerals and burals because of the horrors that they inflicted on the world. Tamerlane Tsarnaev was a son, brother, husband, and father in addition to being a murderer. Not for his sake but for his families sake, he should be given a burial and his family should be allowed to mourn.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      I haven’t followed the situation closely, but how exactly is he being denied burial? Is the government prohibiting it? Or individual cemeteries/burial sites?Report

      • Avatar Jonathan McLeod in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        My understanding is that the city of Cambridge didn’t want him buried in Cambridge, and there were problems finding any cemetery that would accept him. So, to answer your last two questions. Yes, kind of, and yes, kind of.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jonathan McLeod
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          says:

          Hm.

          I’m don’t think I’m at all okay with the city seeking to make such prohibitions, as understandable as the feeling behind it may be.
          I’m not sure how I feel about the cemetery.

          Generally speaking, do there exist “public cemeteries”?Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy
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            says:

            He was even denied burial at the state prison.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley
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              says:

              They bury people at prisons?Report

              • Avatar Lyle in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                Recall that to claim a body you then need to pay for the funeral and burial if no cremation is involved. Often executed folk have no relatives willing to pay for the service, so the state buries them, just like it buries a body that is unidentified found by the road side as a John or Jane Doe. This is also true of many inmates as well who have no one who wants to claim the body. After all you can have a memorial service without the body, so why not let the state who incarcerated or killed the person bury him? In addition there are programs for burying (now days moving to cremating) indigents at state expense if relatives can’t pay.Report

          • Avatar Herb in reply to Kazzy
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            says:

            “I’m not sure how I feel about the cemetery.”

            Why the confusion? Does it really matter who refused to bury a dead man? What strange alchemy renders one refusal acceptable and the other not?Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Herb
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              says:

              I see a clear distinction between private and public institutions making such determinations.

              I’m not necessarily okay with the cemetery’s decision, but I’m not sure that I’m not okay. I’m torn.

              The government? To the extent that the government buries people, it should not get to choose, save for spaces/traditions reserved for specific groups (e.g., Arlington).Report

              • Avatar Herb in reply to Kazzy
                Ignored
                says:

                “I see a clear distinction between private and public institutions making such determinations.”

                Hmmm….there is a clear distinction between private and public institutions, sure, but should we really give the nature of the institution more weight than other factors?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Herb
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                says:

                I’m not sure I understand.

                Perhaps if I clarify my position, we might better understand one another…

                I don’t think that the government has any business telling folks where they can and cannot be buried, outside of universally applied limitations (e.g., you can’t just bury someone in the middle of Central Park).

                However, privately owned cemeteries do have a certain right to determine the criteria for their use. Jewish cemeteries, as I understand them, have very strict rules for certain things. Now, how far we should let cemeteries go… I’m not sure. Which is why I’m unsure how I feel.

                But the government must treat all citizens equally. And that includes with regards to their burial rights.Report

              • Avatar Herb in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                Thanks for the clarification. My view, in short, is that it doesn’t matter whether it’s the government or some private business, refusing to bury a dead man is unhealthy, strange, and unnecessarily dickish.

                I can’t think of a single reason why “public versus private” should be a factor at all.Report

      • Avatar J.L. Wall in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        Jonathan’s answer is part, but not all, of the story. At least part of the reasoning of the various towns & cemeteries that wouldn’t accept it was a fear of vandalism/protesters (who, if I may extrapolate, would probably damage other grave sites in the process of defacing Tsarnaev’s). The funeral home that was holding the body — the only one in MA, I believe, that would accept it — has been picketed by protestors arguing he should be left to rot, “fed to the sharks,” etc. It’s also received threatening phone calls and the owner — whose accent makes him sound like he’s Massachusetts born and bred — has been told to “go back to Russia.” There was a call to send the body to Russia for burial, but the family can’t afford it and no one who doesn’t want the body in the U.S. wants to arrange the transport.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to J.L. Wall
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          says:

          Ugh. Thanks, JL (and Jonathan).

          This can’t be unprecedented. What usually happens when someone so hated by the community dies? Where is Manson buried? Etc.Report

        • Avatar Jonathan McLeod in reply to J.L. Wall
          Ignored
          says:

          True. I wasn’t giving the ‘whys’, there’s a lot going on here. And when seeing all the people protesting outside the funeral home, I can understand why some cemeteries would have been wary.

          And this was a good post, JL.Report

        • Avatar NewDealer in reply to J.L. Wall
          Ignored
          says:

          Or becoming a shrine of sorts. Israel faced the same dilemma when they executed Eichmann. Their decision was to cremate him and scatter the ashes at sea. They did not want a spot in Israel to be a shrine to Neo-Nazis and other anti-Semitic types.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to NewDealer
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            says:

            While I perfectly understand the logic, I find that a bit troubling. Not necessarily troubling enough to say that they didn’t shouldn’t* do it, but troubling. Something seems off about not offering the deceased a place of burial because of what others might do. And I recognize Israel is not alone in this regard.

            *Edited to correct confusing typo.Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy
              Ignored
              says:

              Well, we know its not what others might do but what they will do. Spain has moer than a few people that revere Franco and Chile has its Pinochet fans. They treat the graves of their “heroes” as revered monuments.Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy
              Ignored
              says:

              In case your wondering, Jewish law requires that everybody be given a burial. No crime is considered so serious that it renders the perpetrator undeserving of a burial and requires their remains to rot forever. However, that doesn’t mean that people deserve equal burials. You can treat the remains of criminal differently than those of a more ethical person.Report

              • Avatar Kimsie in reply to LeeEsq
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                says:

                so, what they did to eichmann was a violation of jewish law…Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kimsie
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                says:

                No, it was accordance with Jewish law. Burial in this case means disposing of the body rather than letting it decompose in the open. However, you do not need to treat the body of the criminal with the same respect as the body of an ordinary person let alone a good person. By cremating and putting his ashes in the sea, the body was disposed of but not in a respectful way. This is perfectly fine.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kimsie
                Ignored
                says:

                No, it was accordance with Jewish law. Burial in this case means disposing of the body rather than letting it decompose in the open. However, you do not need to treat the body of the criminal with the same respect as the body of an ordinary person let alone a good person. By cremating and putting his ashes in the sea, the body was disposed of but not in a respectful way. This is perfectly fine.Report

          • Avatar Lyle in reply to NewDealer
            Ignored
            says:

            As indeed was the treatment of Ben Laden, bury him at sea where no shrine could be established.Report

  3. Avatar LeeEsq
    Ignored
    says:

    I believe the French have a saying about the more things change, the more they stay the same. We might dress differently and our toys might be different but many of the dilemmas faced by us were faced by our ancestors in the distant past.

    Personally, I don’t see the benefit in denying Tamerlane Tsarnaev a burial somewhere. What he did was horrible but plenty of other people have done worse and received glorious funerals and burals because of the horrors that they inflicted on the world. Tamerlane Tsarnaev was a son, brother, husband, and father in addition to being a murderer. Not for his sake but for his families sake, he should be given a burial and his family should be allowed to mourn.Report

  4. Avatar MikeSchilling
    Ignored
    says:

    Is he to be buried in Muslim burial that willfully seeks several hundred other people’s salvation?Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to MikeSchilling
      Ignored
      says:

      “Is he to be buried in Muslim burial that willfully seeks several hundred other people’s salvation?”

      I’m sorry, but could you please rephrase that in a way that make sense?

      Do you mean ‘should he be buried in Muslim holy ground’?Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    I do find myself wondering “why didn’t they just cremate him and dump the ashes someplace?” (Dump them on Polynices!)

    I assume that there is some Islamic prohibition against cremation?Report

  6. Avatar Patrick
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    says:

    My rage, my fury would drive me now to hack your flesh away and eat you raw – such agonies you have caused me.Report

  7. Avatar George Turner
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    says:

    I read they buried him somewhere in Virginia.Report

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