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Boston Globe: Do you feel ‘empathy’ for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev?

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Jeff Poor
Media Reporter

In the opinion section of Wednesday’s Boston Globe, Joanna Weiss asks here readers if they feel empathy for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is suspected along with his brother of the Boston Marathon terror attacks that killed three and wounded 282 on Patriots Day, April 15.

“Some recoil at the idea of equating him with a victim,” Weiss writes for the paper’s Boston.comment page. “But is empathy different from sympathy? Does it make us hopelessly naive, or simply human?”

Despite being suspected of heinous acts, Weiss set up the question by presenting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an everyday 19-year-old kid.

“Photos show him dropping a bomb near the Boston Marathon finish line,” Weiss wrote. “He allegedly killed a police officer in cold blood. But while his older brother fit the stereotype of the dangerous extremist — distant, cruel, driven by ideology — 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had friends. Went to prom. Was considered ‘a nice guy.’”

On Saturday, Kevin Cullen wrote a Boston Globe oped that also painted Dhokhar as an everyday kid: “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, had made something of himself. He was a captain of the wrestling team at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, where his friends recalled him as a class clown, a dutiful student, an ordinary kid who liked to smoke a bone once in a while.”

Cullen’s portrayal of Dzhokhar contrasted sharply with his opinion of his older brother, Tamerlan: “Get out the violins, because you’re about to read and hear all these stories about how poor Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s troubles had to do with the repression of the Chechens, and the hard nomadic life ethnic Chechens were forced to endure in the shambolic collapse of the Soviet Union.”

“Spare me.”

Respondents were encouraged to respond to Weiss’ sympathy question on the comment section of the article, or to tweet at the hashtag #BostonEmpathy and @BostonComment.

(h/t Jammie Wearing Fool)

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