With the profile of the two Tsarnaev brothers who are suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing evolving, it appears they were once grateful immigrants to America. Of course, they were children then. As they grew up, something apparently changed, especially for the elder brother. I’ve been thinking a lot about Dad and his own experience as a young man immigrating all by himself to America from Northern Ireland. He would have been about the same age as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect and the younger of the two brothers.
Like the Tsarnaev brothers, my father hailed from a war-torn region which had seen a lot of bloody conflict with the government that controlled the area. Dad spoke openly about his hatred for the ruling British system in Northern Ireland and his deep-seated belief that Northern Ireland Catholics should be free from British control. From time to time, he would make vague mentions of IRA membership and how he couldn’t return home to Belfast because of his past activity. I’ll never know for sure but I will guess this was just a bit of paranoia on his part. I do believe that if he had stayed in Belfast and never immigrated to the U.S., he likely would have become heavily involved in the IRA. Dad was a very proud Irishman and while not a violent person, I do believe he would have been willing to lay his life on the line for the cause.
The IRA is of course designated a terrorist organization, though Dad always defended the group whenever there was an IRA-sponsored bombing that caused casualties and made the world news report. The U.S. government has played a mediator role in negotiations, with a mixed record of success. Still, I can’t imagine Dad being involved in an attack against his adopted country to make some sort of statement for the IRA.
Certainly, radical Islam and the IRA are two very different beasts. America was a very different country when my father arrived in the early 1950’s, though still heavily broken down by ethnic groups where he lived in Brooklyn. In the light of the tragic Boston Marathon attack, I wish I could ask Dad more about his experiences as a young immigrant trying to find his way in a rapidly developing America. Did he have doubts and frustrations? Did he ever want to leave and return to Ireland?
America’s diversity in race, religion and culture has been a unique and overall successful experiment. But tragedies like the Boston Marathon also highlight the struggles the melting pot creates.